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UND will need to overcome injuries against Portland State

GRAND FORKS -- Portland State football coach Bruce Barnum was singing the praises of University of North Dakota coach Bubba Schweigert earlier this week.

Weber State defenders Keilan Benjamin (1) and Jordan Preator (24) tackle UND's Noah Wanzek Saturday at the Alerus Center. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
Weber State defenders Keilan Benjamin (1) and Jordan Preator (24) tackle North Dakota's Noah Wanzek earlier this season at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks. Eric Hylden / Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS -- Portland State football coach Bruce Barnum was singing the praises of University of North Dakota coach Bubba Schweigert earlier this week.

“Bubba’s always got a tough football team,” Barnum said. “The only time you catch a Bubba team is when he’s got some injuries.”

Barnum was probably referencing UND’s injury-riddled 2017 season in which the Fighting Hawks went a disappointing 3-8.

But the sentiment still might make UND fans cringe.

A banged-up Fighting Hawks team (5-4 overall) will face off against Portland State (4-5) at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, at the Alerus Center in the final regular-season home game.

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UND will honor the program’s 16 seniors before kickoff.

After starting the season with a promising 5-2 mark, UND is on a two-game skid. The Hawks lost a 10-point fourth-quarter lead to unranked Idaho last Saturday.

In the loss to the Vandals, UND finished the game without its top four wide receivers and two of the team’s top three running backs.

The Hawks are hopeful to have All-American running back John Santiago back in the lineup against the Vikings. Santiago has missed the past three weeks with injury.

As for wide receivers Izzy Adeoti, Travis Toivonen, Garett Maag and Noah Wanzek, the Hawks expect to make some game-time decisions on availability.

UND senior cornerback Deion Harris is also a game-time decision with an injury.

The Hawks’ defense could use the services of Harris, as Portland State racked up 45 points in a home loss to Idaho State last Saturday night.

The Vikings’ offense is most often run through sophomore quarterback Davis Alexander, a slippery run-pass threat.

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Alexander has 81 carries for 325 yards and a team-high 10 touchdowns this year.

The Vikings will also rotate Jalani Eason at quarterback. Eason has a team-high 359 rushing yards this season.

“They spread you out to run it and give you a number of different looks to defend,” Schweigert said. “You have to commit enough people to stop the run, then it becomes challenging when they throw the football because you can’t get caught napping.

“They also run enough gadget plays to keep you on your toes. They’ll take some chances and try to fool you.”

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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