Kolpack: History lessons are fine, but this week for NDSU is about solving the UND 3-4

Fargo The last time we publicly saw Marlan "Hawk" Haakenson in the sporting world was in the late '80s and early '90s when as the Bismarck mayor he was leading the Virgil Hill parade into a boxing ring. Those were the days when Virg's popularity ...

UND head coach Bubba Schweigert is hoping his 3-4 defense gives North Dakota State fits on Saturday. USA Today Sports


The last time we publicly saw Marlan "Hawk" Haakenson in the sporting world was in the late '80s and early '90s when as the Bismarck mayor he was leading the Virgil Hill parade into a boxing ring. Those were the days when Virg's popularity was at its peak, and if you're looking to boost your political ratings, that wasn't a bad place to be.

More than two decades later, the Hawk resurfaced this week and, like the timing of Virg's world boxing titles, he couldn't have picked a better week to unveil his latest fight: trying to circumvent the UND nickname process. I almost dropped my morning coffee from the chuckle. Just a coincidence the Hawk announced it on NDSU-UND football week? He registered the trade names of four of the five nickname options with the North Dakota Secretary of State two weeks ago, but it didn't hit the media until Monday.

UND countered saying it does business as UND, not as a nickname, and therefore the Hawk's efforts will go in vain. It's also been a week where the 12-year drought of the rivalry has, and should be, a hot topic. If you did something heroic in this series in the last few generations, you were a story.

That video of Jim Kleinsasser running away from the Bison secondary? It's exactly as I remember it.


The history lessons have been common. About the only question I'm still wondering about is the location of the Nickel. It's in Grand Forks, somewhere, as best we can tell. Rocky versus Roger. NDSU winning 12 straight from 1981-92. The fumble that ended the streak. Outdoor football. It's been a nice refresher course, but there has been one fact generally not talked about this week.

There's a game on Saturday.

This may bore the historians, but UND won 10 of the previous 13 meetings and is 4-1 in the Fargodome mainly because of these two numbers.



Yes, one of the architects of the 3-4 defense is now the head coach in Grand Forks, and you have to wonder what Bubba Schweigert has in mind on Saturday. The scheme was originally designed to hold down the old NDSU veer, and it generally worked. How about this 2001 stat to raise the paranoia of veteran Bison fans: Harlon Hill candidate Lamar Gordon with 24 carries for 72 yards.

Bubba, after a stint as head coach at Minnesota-Duluth, and Dale Lennon took their 3-4 to Southern Illinois in 2008. NDSU and the West Coast offense eventually figured it out after a couple of swings and misses, but the 3-4 will return to the dome on Saturday. The UND defensive coordinator is Eric Schmidt, and if that name sounds familiar to Bison fans, it should. As a UND linebacker, he spent quite a few plays in the NDSU offensive backfield.

"They do a good job of mixing it up," said Bison quarterback Carson Wentz. "They bring pressure, they show pressure looks and back away and they do a good job of disguising and mixing up different things."


It's made for a different week of preparation for the Bison offense. Certainly, the Dale-Bubba 3-4 has evolved over the years, but so has NDSU's theory in how to attack it. Granted, personnel plays a major role, but the Bison are 6-1 against the Salukis with Lennon as head coach with the only loss in that dreadful 2009 season.

As for personnel, it helps having Brock Jensen and Wentz as your quarterback.

"It's a little stressful early in the week," Wentz said. "They present a number of different looks to account for in the run game as well. As the week progresses, a lot of things clear up and get less muddy I guess you could say."

Certainly, more clear that Hawk's attempt at stopping the nickname process. The history lessons are all fine and dandy-and necessary-but the real show starts Saturday afternoon.

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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