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Fighting Hawks move up to No. 22 in FCS poll

GRAND FORKS -- University of North Dakota football coach Bubba Schweigert doesn't like to look ahead at what any individual game could mean in the larger scope of the 2016 season.

GRAND FORKS - University of North Dakota football coach Bubba Schweigert doesn't like to look ahead at what any individual game could mean in the larger scope of the 2016 season.

On Monday, he quickly dismissed any talk of the Fighting Hawks' chances of sitting in the driver's seat of the Big Sky Conference if it can beat Southern Utah.

UND, which moved up two spots to No. 22 in the STATS FCS poll, faces Southern Utah for a homecoming game at the Alerus Center at noon Saturday.

"It's just another game to us," said Schweigert, whose team is ranked No. 18 in the latest coaches' poll. "There's no driver's seat. It's too long of a season. We want to beat a really good opponent and stay at the top of the conference standings. We know it's really important to stay at the top."

With a convincing 40-7 win Saturday at Sacramento State, UND improved to 3-0 in the league for the first time since joining the Big Sky in 2012.

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Only UND and Eastern Washington are 3-0 in league play. With the Big Sky featuring an unbalanced schedule, the Fighting Hawks don't face annual Big Sky powers Montana and EWU this year.

But the Fighting Hawks, who have won four consecutive games, will face the defending Big Sky champions in Southern Utah, which won eight games a year ago before losing to Sam Houston State in the first round of the FCS playoffs.

SUU had two players taken in the 2016 NFL draft: linebacker Miles Killebrew by the Detroit Lions and cornerback LeShaun Sims by the Tennessee Titans.

A third player, defensive end James Cowser - the FCS' all-time leader in sacks and tackles for loss - was signed after the draft by the Oakland Raiders.

This year's Thunderbirds (3-2 overall, 2-1 Big Sky) are coming off a dominant performance against UC Davis, a 24-3 win in Cedar City.

Southern Utah head coach Demario Warren is in his first season taking over for Ed Lamb, who joined the coaching staff at Brigham Young. Warren, the defensive coordinator under Lamb, has continued SUU's reputation for strong defense.

The Thunderbirds are one of four Big Sky programs yielding fewer than 25.0 points per game (24.8, fourth in the Big Sky).

Southern Utah's issues this season have been on offense, where the Thunderbirds rank 12th of 13 Big Sky teams in total offense (338.8).

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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