UND football’s season on the line at Northern Arizona

UND (6-4 overall) needs to beat Northern Arizona (3-6 overall) Saturday, Nov. 17, in order to boost the chances of reaching the postseason for just the second time in the program’s Division I history. The game is scheduled for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff.
University of North Dakota tight end Luke Fiedler clears Portland State's Artuz Manning (24) out of the path of running back Brady Oliveira (5) during last Saturday's home football game in Grand Forks. Nick Nelson / Forum News Service

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Many of the recent FCS playoff scenarios circulating online by media prognosticators have been kind to the University of North Dakota.

The common view is the Fighting Hawks as a first-round host.

The only issue for UND and coach Bubba Schweigert? This is all assuming a victory.

UND (6-4 overall) needs to beat Northern Arizona (3-6 overall) Saturday, Nov. 17, in order to boost the chances of reaching the postseason for just the second time in the program’s Division I history. The game is scheduled for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff.

“I think everybody knows it’s a huge game,” UND senior running back John Santiago said. “We have a lot to play for.”

The Hawks aren’t guaranteed postseason inclusion with a victory.

The 24-team tournament includes 10 automatic bids awarded to conference champions and 14 at-large selections. The FCS Playoff Selection Show starts at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 18, on ESPNU.

The two primary games UND fans should monitor are Montana-Montana State (1 p.m. in Missoula) and Weber State-Idaho State (3:30 p.m. in Pocatello, Idaho).

The Fighting Hawks would be in a better position for postseason play if Montana and Weber State win those two matchups.

“The mentality is this: If you go get a positive result, you have a chance to move on,” Schweigert said. “The alternative … you don’t. We have to go out there and play downhill offensively and get in attack-mode defensively.”

Northern Arizona’s season has been derailed by injuries. All-Big Sky Conference quarterback Case Cookus has only played in two games this season after suffering a season-ending injury.

Backup Daniel Bridge-Gadd then played in seven games before suffering a season-ending injury, as well.

That means UND will either see third-string quarterback Gino Campiotti, a freshman quarterback who has thrown for 170 yards in two games played, or Brandon Porter, a freshman wide receiver, who has completed only 30 percent of his pass attempts (20 attempts).

“You have a number of things to prepare for because you don’t know exactly what they’re going to do,” Schweigert said.

In NAU’s last game, a 42-20 loss at UC Davis, Porter threw for 66 yards and the Lumberjacks ran the ball 66 times. Porter ran the ball 27 times for 157 yards.

Offense might be tough to come by for both teams. In UND’s win over Portland State last weekend, the Hawks only had 222 yards of total offense.

The Hawks’ passing game has been hampered the past two weeks with injuries.

UND is hoping to have freshman wide receiver Garett Maag return to the lineup this week. He didn’t play against PSU due to a hamstring injury suffered the week before against Idaho.