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Potato Bowl full of history for UND, USD

GRAND FORKS, N.D.--In 2003, Bob Nielson was moving from football coach to athletic director at NCAA Division II Minnesota-Duluth. He chose his replacement to be Bubba Schweigert. Now, 13 years later, Nielson and Schweigert face off against each o...

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GRAND FORKS, N.D.-In 2003, Bob Nielson was moving from football coach to athletic director at NCAA Division II Minnesota-Duluth.

He chose his replacement to be Bubba Schweigert.

Now, 13 years later, Nielson and Schweigert face off against each other at 4 p.m. today. Nielson, a first-year head coach at South Dakota, visits Schweigert-led North Dakota at the Alerus Center.

The Schweigert-Nielson storyline is just the beginning when it comes to the history in play and at stake in UND's home opener.

UND will be playing in its 51st annual Potato Bowl against a team it has played dating back to 1903. Schweigert said his first memory of the Potato Bowl was 1989 when UND played South Dakota.

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UND, which is 60-29-5 all-time against South Dakota, hasn't lost to the Coyotes in Grand Forks since 1985. UND and USD are meeting in non-conference play for the first time since 1921-the last season before the formation of the North Central Conference.

The last time USD came to Grand Forks, it provided a memorable finish. UND won 38-37 in 2011, earning No. 22 UND a share of the Great West Conference title. Senior quarterback Brent Goska threw three fourth-quarter touchdown passes to lead the comeback, including the game-winning score to senior Chris Anderson.

"It's always been a tough, hard-fought game," Schweigert said. "The coaches and players have changed throughout the years, but it's always a hard-fought game. That's the tradition of the game."

Perhaps more importantly for UND this season, the Fighting Hawks are trying to avoid an 0-3 start for the first time since 1986-Roger Thomas' first year as head coach. UND also holds a streak of 29 consecutive wins in home openers.

"I think this game is really important for us," Schweigert said. "We need a win to feel better about ourselves."

UND, which started the season ranked No. 19 in the nation, opened with a 13-9 loss at Stony Brook, followed by a heartbreaking 27-26 defeat at Bowling Green, where the Fighting Hawks missed a 2-point conversion pass with 13 seconds remaining.

"Coming off two losses on the road, we are motivated and excited to show our fans what we can do at home," UND defensive end Brandon Dranka said. "Obviously, it's not the way we wanted to start, but our goals aren't out of reach by any means. We're more motivated than ever. Our goal is still to win the Big Sky and make a run in the playoffs."

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Related Topics: UND SPORTSFOOTBALLUND FOOTBALLBUBBA SCHWEIGERT
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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