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UND FOOTBALL: Offensive line improving despite shuffle

SACRAMENTO, Calif.--After giving up 12 sacks in four games, the UND offensive line was forced to shuffle its lineup prior to last Saturday's matchup with then-No. 16 Cal Poly.

SACRAMENTO, Calif.-After giving up 12 sacks in four games, the UND offensive line was forced to shuffle its lineup prior to last Saturday's matchup with then-No. 16 Cal Poly.

Transfer center Michael Coe was moved out to right tackle after starter Mat Cox suffered a season-ending injury. Redshirt freshman Patric Rooney shifted into the starter role at center.

The result? The Fighting Hawks allowed no sacks and no quarterback hurries. The line play allowed Keaton Studsrud to throw for a season-high 249 yards on 15-for-21 passing, helping UND to a 31-24 win over the Mustangs.

UND hopes it has found some line chemistry, despite the shuffling, as the Fighting Hawks travel to Sacramento State for an 8 p.m. Big Sky Conference game tonight at Hornet Stadium.

"We graded higher than before," UND coach Bubba Schweigert said of the offensive line change against Poly. "We were more assignment sharp and got a body on a body.

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"That's what we were waiting for. We had seen it in past games, but we weren't doing it at a consistent level."

Coe, a graduate transfer from Division II Western New Mexico, made the center-to-tackle transition with ease. Coe played tackle his first two seasons at Western New Mexico, where he played for UND offensive line coach Luke Knauf.

"It felt good to get back to my college roots," Coe said. "I think it went well. I had fun. It's a little less stressful not having to worry about the snap. I just have to use my feet more and block faster guys."

UND, now ranked No. 24 in the STATS FCS poll, has won three straight games and has an opportunity to improve to 3-0 in the Big Sky for the first time since joining the league in 2012.

The Fighting Hawks started out 2-0 in league play a year ago before losing at home to Idaho State.

"In the first two games, we realized how close we were to how good we are and now we're not making the little mistakes," Coe said. "We're more focused and playing tougher because we know how close we are to getting a Big Sky championship."

But just as UND appeared to find some cohesion on the offensive line, injuries struck again late in the game against Cal Poly.

Rooney missed the final moments with an injury. Rooney practiced this week but is questionable to go against the Hornets.

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"He's a day-by-day thing," Schweigert said. "That's where we're at. We know he's going to be back; that's the good news. When will he be back? We don't know."

In case Rooney is unavailable against Sacramento State, UND will use sophomore Grant Aplin, who had been rotating repetitions within games with starting guards Dan Bell and Demon Taylor.

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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