Fighting Hawks come home to roost

Adam Gunderman, Staff Writer

The Fighting Hawks return home this weekend to face the 16th ranked Cal Poly Mustangs and their high-powered offense.

Last season, UND traveled San Luis Obispo, California to take on the Mustangs. The Hawks came away with a big win, 45-21, to end the season on a high note. Running back John Santiago rushed for 117 yards and three touchdowns, while quarterback Keaton Studsrud had a terrific day as well. Studsrud completed 17 of his 20 attempted passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns including a 64 yard touchdown pass to Clive Georges.

This year, Cal Poly comes to Grand Forks for the conference matchup. Just like last year, the Hawks must be on their toes the whole game on defense. The Mustangs feature a very tricky triple-option offense. The players must stay disciplined and know their assignment on every play.

The Mustang offense this season is going to be even trickier than last year. They have a new quarterback who has an excellent arm.

“This year, they’re throwing the ball so much more effectively,” head coach Bubba Schweigert said. “This quarterback throws the ball with touch, that guys can catch, he throws the ball accurately and he can get out of trouble, and that adds another dimension to their team.”

On top of their improved passing game, they have a monstrous running attack as well. The Mustangs average 363 yards rushing yards per game. Slowing that down will be a major key for the Hawks defense.

The Fighting Hawks rank second in the country in interceptions this year. Last season, they had six interceptions all year. Through four games this season, they have eight. Winning the turnover battle gives UND at a big advantage.

“I feel like our secondary is starting to get more comfortable,” Zach Arnell said. “We’ve made a few adjustments to our defense this year to make it easier to set up DBs (defensive backs) for interceptions.”

The Mustangs are coming off of back-to-back huge wins over the number six ranked team, Montana last week, and South Dakota State two weekends ago.

On the other side, The Hawks are coming off back-to-back big wins as well. After two weeks, UND found themselves 0-2. In the last two weeks, they have won two nail-biters against the University of South Dakota as well as last weeks’ win in Bozeman against Montana State. It was UND’s first time winning in Bozeman since 1982.

Cal Poly is averaging giving up 109 yards per game on the ground. To put this in perspective, UND has an excellent run defense that on average gives up 114 rushing yards per game. Santiago will have his hands full, but will get help from Big Sky offensive player of the week for week 4, Brady Oliveira. Oliveira rushed for a career high 171 yards in Bozeman last weekend.

Although a win over not only a conference opponent, but also a ranked opponent would be huge for the Hawks, Schweigert says they will not let themselves get wrapped up in it and lose their focus.

“Our vision for the program is to win the Big Sky, so thats what we’re focused on right now,” Schweigert said. “We’re gonna focus on our prep. You never want to get ahead of yourselves about things you can’t control because it’s such a long season. We have seven games to go, and this is just another game.”

Kickoff at the Alerus center Saturday October 1st is at 1:00pm.

Adam Gunderman is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]