FARGO — The COVID-19 pandemic has shelved a lot of things with college football, such as a homecoming game. There haven’t been any.

But University of North Dakota running back Otis Weah may try to rekindle the tradition on Saturday when the Fighting Hawks play North Dakota State at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. The facility is not far from Moorhead High, where Weah ran roughshod over Minnesota high school opponents.

That concept hasn’t changed at the college level.

“He provides us with that big-play ability out of the backfield,” said UND head coach Bubba Schweigert. “He’s a really hard runner who breaks tackles. Some of his best runs this year up to this point have been two or three yards for a first down. He’s really powerful and he breaks the first tackle and moves the chains.”

Stopping Weah, or at least holding him in somewhat check, most likely will be goal No. 1 for the Bison defense in a game that matches the No. 2-ranked Fighting Hawks against No. 4 NDSU. Weah leads the Missouri Valley Football Conference in rushing at 110.3 yards per game and a case can be made he’s one of the top backs in Division I FCS football considering UND’s unbeaten record and quality wins.

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He’s averaging 7.0 yards per carry. Weah is seventh in the FCS in rushing with the top six playing for unranked teams.

“They’re really good, I know some people have them ranked first in the country, they’ve probably earned it,” said Bison head coach Matt Entz. “Right now on paper they’re better than we are. Otis Weah is a tremendous downhill runner who can make you miss as well.”

Weah ran for over 1,800 yards his senior year at Moorhead High and signed with UND. He played some as a true freshman in 2018, but missed all of 2019 after he was ruled academically ineligible.

“I’m a big believer in second chances,” Schweigert said. “I think guys deserve that. We’re dealing with young men that are coming out of high school from a lot of different challenges or whatever they go through personally. I think there’s a lot of analogies you apply to life when you work through a college football program and I’m one of those guys who believes in second chances for guys and want to help guys mature and get better as they move forward in life.”

Weah rarely moves backward on the field. Of his 63 rushing attempts, he has only two total yards in losses. He has six touchdowns, which also leads the Valley.

Not only is Weah leading the league in rushing, he’s up by about 20 yards per game over South Dakota State’s Pierre Strong Jr., who coming into the spring season was far and away considered the top returning back.

NDSU’s top rusher per game, Jalen Bussey, is at 59.2 yards.

The game will be the first conference matchup between the two since 2003 when both were in Division II North Central Conference. Entz said he plans on telling the players a few facts of the series, like it began in 1894 and they once played for the Nickel Trophy, which has since been retired.

“I don’t think we’re going to do anything different or all of a sudden we have to try to shake the rafters of the Fargodome on a Monday to get our kids excited,” he said. “We need to get better. I’m not here to win cheerleading contests.”