UND steps into the Inferno tonightCHENEY, Wash. — The University of North Dakota will play Eastern Washington for the first time tonight. Also, UND will play at a field known as the Inferno — a reference to the red artificial turf at Roos Field.
By: Wayne Nelson, Forum Communications
CHENEY, Wash. — The University of North Dakota will play Eastern Washington for the first time tonight. Also, UND will play at a field known as the Inferno — a reference to the red artificial turf at Roos Field.
Whether UND will be seeing red for the second straight week, however, remains to be seen. UND’s fourth-quarter collapse against Cal Poly last week at home put UND in a tough spot as the Green and White (1-1 Big Sky, 3-2 overall) prepare for the heart of the program’s first Big Sky Conference season.
“Every week is just a battle,” UND coach Chris Mussman said. “And every week, you’re going to face a very good team.”
Eastern Washington (2-0, 3-1) is ranked No. 7 this week and won the 2010 national FCS title. And the Eagles may be flying a little higher after rallying past Montana last week behind the play of freshman quarterback Vernon Adams.
Even though UND will play the Eagles for the first time tonight, there is some history between the programs.
Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin was the Central Washington coach in 2007 when UND beat the Wildcats 35-28 at the Alerus Center. And he was an assistant at CWU in 2001 and 2002. UND beat CWU in Ellensburg, Wash., in 2001 and lost at home the following season.
Mussman was an assistant coach for UND in all three meetings. There is another connection as well.
Both programs have had surprising results on offense with quarterbacks that did not enter the season as starters.
Adams took over from SMU transfer Kyle Padron a couple of weeks ago and now is ranked No. 2 in Big Sky passing efficiency. Marcus Hendrickson, meanwhile, took over when North Carolina transfer Braden Hanson went down with an injury in the season opener.
The senior has UND’s offense to numbers rarely seen in the program.
UND ranks No. 1 in Big Sky offense (478.6 ypg) and scoring offense (40.8 ppg).
Adams, however, has made a big impression on the UND coaching staff.
“He’s fun to watch,” Mussman said. “He’s very athletic; very fast. Our defensive guys think he’s faster than Marcus and Marcus is pretty quick.”
The game has the making of a shootout as both defenses rank in the bottom half of the Big Sky.
UND will enter tonight’s game with some health concerns.
R.J. McGill, the team’s second-leading receiver, is doubtful after suffering an injury last week. Garrison Goodman, the team’s leading tackler, also may not play.
In addition, linebacker Damon Andrews was hurt last week and offensive lineman Emmett Lynch will try to play tonight with a broken thumb. He has a mammoth cast on his left hand.
“For us to have a chance, we have to stay healthy,” Mussman said.
Eastern, however, has health issues of its own. Safety Jeff Minnerly, who also is the team’s holder, broke his collar bone last week and receiver Nick Edwards (7 catches, 124 yards) also is out indefinitely with a knee injury.
Baldwin was not shocked by his team’s fourth-quarter rally against Montana last week. EWU scored two touchdowns in the final 2:19 for the 32-26 win. “There are a lot of great teams in this conference; you’ll see more games like that,” Baldwin said … South Dakota beat EWU 30-17 last year … In the last three years, EWU has won nine games when it has trailed or been tied in the fourth quarter … If McGill can’t play tonight, true freshman Kenny Golladay may play a bigger role for UND. He has 10 catches for 158 yards this season and his leaping, one-handed catch for 55 yards last week was one for the highlight reel. “I didn’t think too much about it,” Golladay said. “I just went out and tried to make a play for my team.” … Because of Thursday’s snowfall, UND practiced indoors at the Hyslop Sports Center … UND’s offense is the only in the FCS currently ranked in to the top 30 in both passing offense (11th, 268.5 ypg) and rushing (28th, 191.8 ypg).