Southern Utah has perfect 2-0 record at Alerus CenterGRAND FORKS — Most of the University of North Dakota football 2012 schedule has featured unfamiliar opponents as the Green and White fight through their first season getting accustomed to the Big Sky Conference.
By: Tom Miller, The Dickinson Press
GRAND FORKS — Most of the University of North Dakota football 2012 schedule has featured unfamiliar opponents as the Green and White fight through their first season getting accustomed to the Big Sky Conference.
This week’s opponent, Southern Utah, however, provides some recent history, a history both teams discussed leading up to their matchup Saturday afternoon at the Alerus Center.
During UND’s weekly media day Tuesday, players and coaches focused on Southern Utah’s 2-0 record in the Alerus Center.
On the Big Sky’s conference call Wednesday, Southern Utah coach Ed Lamb reminisced about last season’s defeat to North Dakota in Cedar City.
“I think that could provide extra motivation,” Lamb said. “They beat us up physically. We had been riding pretty high with a national ranking and coming off an FBS victory. North Dakota came in with a better game plan. They played lights out on offense and defense.
“That’s fresh in the minds of our players. It’s rare for a game to carry over from year to year, but in that case it was a game I believe propelled North Dakota to a conference championship and really damaged our psyche.”
UND won last season 26-20 at Southern Utah behind Jake Miller’s 163 yards rushing and two touchdowns. In a losing effort, Southern Utah quarterback Brad Sorenson threw for 353 yards and three touchdowns.
But Lamb commented this year’s North Dakota team is quite different from the 2011 version.
“They certainly have more emphasis on throwing the football,” Lamb said. “They have a more creative passing attack with more ability to throw the ball downfield with their quarterback.”
Lamb also noticed the difference in UND’s defense, a maligned group that gave up a school-record 695 yards of total offense in Montana State’s 55-10 rout.
“They had some veterans on defense graduate; they were stout a year ago,” Lamb said. “But they still have the same aggressive philosophy.”
As for Southern Utah’s defensive approach, Lamb said there are lessons to be learned from watching UND’s contrasting game film against Montana (a 40-34 record-setting UND win) and Montana State (UND surrendered eight sacks and had 180 yards of total offense).
“Montana showed that you don’t want to throw caution to the wind and blitz all game,” Lamb said. “(UND quarterback Braden Hanson) is too excellent at delivering the ball on time from the pocket. There were lots of unblocked hits on the quarterback and still a complete pass. Even the game-winner against Montana, a linebacker comes untouched and didn’t get there and (UND wide receiver Greg Hardin) takes it the rest of the way on his own. That’s what you learn from there.
“Montana State just had a better game plan, but more importantly, better players. Our challenge is to put together a mix of pressure and coverage and have our guys play with their hair on fire like Montana State did.”