After a huge win last weekend, the Hawks return to the road once again to face the University of Northern Colorado Bears in Greely, Colorado.
Last weekend, the Hawks defeated the Weber Sate Wildcats in a huge conference game. The win puts UND at 7-0 in the conference, good for the top spot.
Both Cole Reyes and John Santiago received Big Sky defensive player of the week, and Big Sky special teams player of the week, respectively.
This week, the Hawks have another big game.
“We’re in this thing late in the year, and playing meaningful games in November, which is what we want to do and who we want to be,” Head Coach Bubba Schweigert said.
The UNC Bears come into the matchup riding a two game win streak in which they have defeated both Sacramento and Portland Sate.
The Bears started the season strong with two wins, one over Abilene Christian University and the other coming against Rocky Mountain College.
Overall, the Bears are 5-3 on the season.
After dropping the first two, the red-hot Hawks have now won 7 games in a row. Their defense as well as offense are falling into place making them unstoppable.
Now, they are close to their first Big Sky Championship in team history. That’s not to say they cannot improve in some areas.
“Well, we have a lot of work to do, we know that,” Schweigert said. “Our vision, and our goal for the program is to win the Big Sky. In order to do that, we’ve got to really prepare this week and that’s what we’re going to focus on with the team.”
Offensively, the Bears are a balanced, high scoring team. They have averaged scoring 36 points-per-game and gained 190 yards-per-game on the ground.
The Bears quarterback, Kyle Sloter, has been having a good season so far. Sloter has passed for 1,858 yards on the season with 19 touchdowns.
Their rushing attack is lead by Trae Riek, who has rushed for 677 yards seven games. Riek has an average of 5.8 yards-per-carry.
To complement Riek, Brandon Cartagena has rushed for 437 yards in eight games to the tune of 6.2 yards-per-carry.
The Hawks will have to keep an eye on receiver Stephen Miller at all time Saturday. Miller has amassed 722 yards and two touchdowns for the Bears. He is a huge threat for their passing game.
While Miller gets the majority of the yards for the Bears, receivers Hakeem Deggs and Alex Wesley have combined to score 11 touchdowns. The Bears feature many receivers who can hurt a defense.
The good news for the Hawks is that they possess arguably the best secondary in the FCS. After three interceptions last weekend, they now have picked off 16 passes so far on the year.
Sloter will give the defense their opportunities to intercept his passes. While he has thrown for a very impressive 19 touchdowns, he has also thrown seven interceptions.
On offense, UND will have a big advantage. The Hawks have some of the best defenses in the Big Sky. The UNC Bears do not.
The Bears have averaged giving up 36.9 points-per-game. The Hawks should have an advantage in that regard.
Last weekend, quarterback Keaton Studsrud left the game with an injury. Without him, the Hawks struggled last season.
Luckily, the team does not think that he will be out for very long. It also helps that the Bears have the worst pass defense in the conference.
Even though the Bears struggle defending the pass, the Hawks will not take them lightly.
“We don’t really look at stats because when you look at your opponents, its all different matchups,” Schweigert said. “We just look at how we matchup, and how we think we can move the football and what we have to do. We’re a lot different style team than some of the teams they have played the past few weeks.”
On defense, Cole Reyes returned after an injury a few weeks ago. His presence was felt by the defense immediately.
The junior safety picked off two passes in UND’s win over Weber State. He will look to add to his total this weekend against a quarterback who can be careless with the ball as times.
Kickoff is set for 1:00 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5.
Adam Gunderman is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]