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UND ready for start of the Big Sky gauntlet

GRAND FORKS -- Tonight's football game between the University of North Dakota and Cal Poly at the Alerus Center won't make or break the season for either team.

But the winner can look ahead -- just a quick peak, really -- toward the possibility of postseason play.

A 2-0 start in the Big Sky Conference is on the line for No. 23 Cal Poly and UND -- both newcomers to the Big Sky. And for UND, a win would certainly give the Green and White some serious momentum as they head to No. 7 Eastern Washington next week.

"It'll be a fun game," UND coach Chris Mussman said.

The game also marks the beginning of a gauntlet UND must run if it wants to make a sudden impact in the Big Sky.

The gauntlet shapes up like this:

-- After tonight's game, UND will prepare for Eastern Washington, a team that won the 2010 national FCS title and plays on a bright red carpet in Cheney, Wash.

-- On Oct. 13, UND returns to the Alerus Center for its homecoming game against Northern Arizona, a team that beat FBS member UNLV before taking down perennial league power Montana last week in Missoula.

-- Speaking of Montana, the Grizzlies come to Grand Forks on Oct. 20 for the marquee home game of UND's first season in the Big Sky.

-- If that's not enough, UND plays at No. 2 Montana State on Oct. 27 in Bozeman. The Bobcats have been knocking on the FCS championship door for a couple of years.

UND takes the Big Sky's top offense (46.8 ppg, 496 ypg) into tonight's game. Cal Poly has the league's top defense, allowing 287 yards per game.

Led by quarterback Andre Broadous and running back Deonte Williams (161 yards per game), Cal Poly runs the triple option -- a ball-control offense that few opponents see anymore. The Mustangs have the third-best run offense (328 ypg) in the FCS.

"We've done a decent job the last three years of corralling them a bit," Mussman said. "Andre will get his yards and Deonte is extremely gifted. We just have to contain some of their bigger plays and make them earn it."

Cal Poly beat UND 23-19 last season in the Alerus.

There is more at stake in the Mustangs' visit this season.

"They're one of the better coached teams we play, in all phases," Cal Poly coach Tim Walsh said. "They're very explosive, which they have not been in the past.

"Right now, they think they're the team to beat in the conference. That's how much confidence they're playing with.

"The place will probably be rocking."

Tonight's crowd

UND's attendance for its first two home games was solid, but not spectacular.

Tonight, UND is hoping for a crowd that can make a difference now that the official Big Sky season has arrived.

UND drew 8,847 fans for the South Dakota Mines game and 9,210 for its game against Big Sky member Portland State. That game, however, was a nonconference matchup.

Athletic department officials are hoping for a turnout of 10,000 or more tonight.

Trying to top dad

In UND's win against Sacramento State last week, UND punter Brett Cameron had an individual goal.

He wanted to do better than his dad did when the older Cameron played in Hornet Stadium approximately 20 years ago. Bob Cameron was a legendary punter with Winnipeg in the CFL.

During the 1990s, the CFL expanded to a few U.S. cities, including Sacramento.

Bob Cameron punted in Hornet Stadium and ended the night with an average of 48 yards.

Brett, a senior, finished with a 47.7 yard average on five punts.

"I tried to beat him but I was a little short," said Brett.

But his punting, especially in the first half, was one of the keys to the win. Three of his punts landed inside the Sacramento 20-yard line and two went for 50 or more yards.

The UND senior has his sights set on a pro career.

"It's something I'd like to pursue if the opportunity is there," Cameron said.

Briefly

Cal Poly quarterback Andre Broadous is a cousin to rapper Snoop Dogg ... Cal Poly linebacker Johnny Millard, who led the Mustangs in tackles last season, is the son of former Minnesota Vikings' defensive lineman Keith Millard ... Former UND great Jim Kleinsasser will be inducted into UND's athletic hall of fame today ... UND offensive lineman Emmett Lynch broke his thumb last week at Sac State. He has a mammoth cast on his left hand. His status for today's game is unknown ... It'll be a black and gold game today. Cal Poly will wear all gold uniforms while UND will again wear its new black uniforms ... Cal Poly didn't arrive in Grand Forks until late Friday night ... Students attending today's game will be given white and green UND Power Towels.

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