UND, Idaho State games have come down to the wire

GRAND FORKS -- The University of North Dakota football team is getting back to its roots by playing Idaho State for the Potato Bowl on Saturday, Sept. 22.
UND's Josh Seibel leaps into the end zone to score the first touchdown for North Dakota during a 2015 game against Idaho State at the Alerus Center. Eric Hylden / Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS - The University of North Dakota football team is getting back to its roots by playing Idaho State for the Potato Bowl on Saturday, Sept. 22.

UND played the Bengals in the first Potato Bowl in 1966, blanking Idaho State 41-0.

UND's recent history with Idaho State, however, would indicate a much closer contest at 4 p.m. at the Alerus Center.

UND, which moved up to No. 22 in the STATS FCS poll, and Idaho State have played four times in UND's Division I era and the four games have been decided by 19 points. No game has been decided by more than one possession.

UND has won three of the four games, but the Bengals spoiled UND's playoff hopes in 2015 with a 37-31 homecoming win at the Alerus Center.

The Bengals and the Fighting Hawks didn't play last year, but cornerback Evan Holm remembers what to expect.

"That was a tough battle (in 2016)," Holm said. "We struggled against them, even though we won. We're expecting another battle."

The tight contests are somewhat curious based on Idaho State's annual struggles finding a footing in Big Sky Conference play.

But the Bengals might have turned a bit of a corner under second-year coach Rob Phenicie.

The Bengals went 4-7 last year and are 1-1 in 2018.

Like UND last week at Sam Houston State, the game against the Fighting Hawks will be a litmus test for Idaho State.

Idaho State opened with a 45-10 win over NCAA Division II Western State Colorado, a team that's now 0-3 on the year.

The Bengals followed with a 45-23 loss at Cal, which is 3-0 and holds a road win over BYU.

Idaho State was led by Mitch Gueller - the brother of quarterback Tanner Gueller - who had six catches for 156 yards and a touchdown against Cal.

"This is a team, after watching this summer, I was impressed with how they played and executed," Schweigert said. "They do a lot of good things, and they're very experienced.

"Last week, they played hard throughout the game. Their fourth quarter they saw a number of big plays. That's a reflection of coach Phenicie and his staff. They're over a year into it, and it's really shown when you watch them compete."