NO. 2 UMD AND WINONA STATE TO COLLIDE SATURDAY NIGHT IN EARLY-SEASON NSIC SHOWDOWN
Thursday, September 6, 2012
The University of Minnesota Duluth will make its 2012 home debut this Saturday (Sept. 8) when the four-time defending Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference champion Bulldogs play host to long-time rival Winona State University. Opening kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at James S. Malosky Stadium (4,500 capacity/artificial turf) on the UMD campus.
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THE RECORDS: UMD, which finished 11-3 overall last fall while advancing to the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division II playoffs for the fourth time in as many years, and Winona State (7-4 in all games and 7-3 in the NSIC one year ago) are both off to 1-0 starts in 2012.
HOW THEY RANK: Here is how UMD and Winona State stacked up in this week's American Football Coaches Association Division II and the D2Football.com polls.
UMD No. 2 No. 2
WSU RV NR
THE BROADCAST: The Bulldog-Warrior matchup will be carried on 1490 The Fan (KQDS-AM) with Jeff Papas handling the play-by-play responsibilities. The broadcast can also be heard on KQ 105.5 FM in Grand Rapids/Hibbing and KQ 106.7 FM in Ely/Virginia and by clicking here.
In addition, My9 (KBJR DT 6.2/KRII DT 11.9) is again televising all UMD home games during the 2012 season, beginning with the one Saturday night against Winona State. Veteran sportscaster Tom Hansen and Don Leighton of the iFan Sports Network are scheduled to serve as the on-air talent. The telecast, which is also available locally on Charter and Mediacom cable, will be videostreammed as well and can be accessed for free by clicking here.
THE COACH: The numbers certainly speak for themselves. Two NCAA II championships, five NSIC titles (including the last four in a row), three perfect 11-0 regular seasons, five NCAA II playoff appearances, 91 victories and a .791 overall winning percentage. Bob Nielson has accomplished all this -- and much more -- in just over nine seasons of head coaching activity at UMD.
Last fall, Nielson directed his charges, which included 15 All-NSIC picks and a quartet of All-Americans, to an 11-3 overall record and a quarterfinal round berth (their fourth in as many years) in the NCAA II playoffs before bowing out to eventual national runnerup Wayne State University. In 2010, the Bulldogs did something no other NCAA II club had ever been able to do – finish 15-0 for a second time. Along the way, UMD brought home the school’s second NCAA II title and third consecutive NSIC crown (a program first), amassing a 10-0 league mark for the third time in as many years. For his efforts, Nielson was bestowed with two of the most prestigious national coaching honors in Division II football – the American Football Coaches Association DII Coach of the Year and the Liberty Mutual DII Coach of the Year awards – in addition to being selected for that same honor by Don Hansen’s Football Gazette and the NSIC.
Nielson returned to the UMD sidelines in 2008 following a four-season hiatus and proceeded to oversee one of the most impressive one-year turnarounds in NCAA Division II history, taking a club which had gone 4-6 in 2007 and molding it into a national champion. Along the way, his Bulldogs rolled up a 15-0 overall mark (only the third NCAA II team to ever accomplish that feat), set or equaled 50 team and individual records, captured the NSIC title and turned out a whopping nine All-Americans. He followed that up two years ago by going 11-2 in all games and advancing to the quarterfinal round of the NCAA II playoffs.
Named the 2008 NCAA II Coach of the Year by American Football Monthly magazine, D2Football.com, and the Football Gazette, Nielson now owns a dazzling 91-24 overall record at UMD (that .791 winning percentage is far and away the best mark in the program’s storied 80-year existence) and is 161-57-1 (.737) in his 19 seasons of coaching at the collegiate level.
Nielson, a three-time NSIC Coach of the Year honoree (2010, 2008 and 2002) whose first tour of duty with the Bulldogs ran from 1999-2003, was officially appointed to his old post on Jan. 3, 2008. (He continues to also serve as UMD’s athletic director, a position he’s held since 2003-04). During his five previous years with the Bulldogs, Nielson helped marshal the UMD program to new heights. In 2002, for example, his Bulldogs posted their second unbeaten, untied regular season record at that time (11-0), advanced to the NCAA II playoffs for the first time ever and captured the NSIC championship. Nielson's resume also includes directing UMD to its inaugural post-season appearance (the 2001 Mineral Water Bowl in Excelsior Springs, Mo.) and the school's second greatest one-year turnaround to date (the Bulldogs went 7-4 in 2000 after managing a 3-8 mark the previous fall).
The runnerup for the 2002 American Football Monthly magazine NCAA II Coach of the Year award, Nielson, 52, joined the UMD staff in the spring of 1999 after he had guided the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire to a share of the 1998 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title (its first since 1983) and an initial berth in the NCAA III playoffs. He amassed a record of 22-11 in three years with the Blugolds, including a 10-3 mark in his farewell season when Wisconsin-Eau Claire notched a team standard for victories. Nielson, the Football Gazette’s 1998 Division III Coach of the Year, also was employed for five years as the head football coach at his alma mater, Wartburg College, where he strung together five successive non-losing seasons and attained a pair of back-to-back NCAA III playoff berths (1993 and 1994), and for two years at Ripon College (1989-90).
NIELSON BY THE NUMBERS
Record at UMD (Year) 91-24 (10th)
Overall Coaching Record (Year) 161-57-1 (20th)
Career NSIC Record 69-14
Career NCAA II Playoff Record 11-3
Career Home Record (UMD) 47-8
vs. Winona State (Overall) 8-3
vs. Winona State (UMD) 6-3
THE RIVALRY: Saturday night's game will mark the 42nd meeting ever between UMD and Winona State. The Bulldogs hold a commanding 31-10 lead in the rivalry, which began way in 1931 -- the first year of intercollegiate football at UMD -- and have beaten the Warriors in each of the last four seasons. That includes a 24-6 victory in Winona one year ago (Oct. 8) when then- freshman running back Austin Sikorski rushed 21 times for 104 yards and one touchdown while quarterback Chase Vogler went 14-for-18 through the air for 117 yards and one score. Ball control was a key factor in that Bulldog triumph -- UMD held a 2-to-1 advantage in time of possession which translated into 80 offensive plays to just 53 for the Warriors.
LAST WEEK: UMD launched its 2012 season in successful fashion by turning back Southwest Minnesota State University 45-20 last Thursday evening in Marshall, Minn. The Bulldogs took a slim 18-13 lead into halftime before going on to score 27 of the game's final 34 points. Redshirted freshman running back Logan Lauters provided a good chunk of UMD's offensive spark, rolling up a game-high 104 rushing yards on just nine carries. Senior quarterback Chase Vogler added another 236 yards and a pair of scores through the air while connecting on 17 of 29 throws for the Bulldogs, who extended their winning streak over Southwest Minnesota State to seven games. The Mustangs did manage to amass 304 yards (going 28-for-477 with no interceptions), but were held to just 29 yards via the run.
THIS IS YOUR CAPTAIN SPEAKING: The Bulldogs' team captaincy duties this fall are being shared by a quintet of seniors -- defensive end Joe Akey, free safety Cameron Harper, offensive guard Garth Heikkinen, tight end Ben Helmer, and quarterback Chase Vogler.
ANOTHER FAVORABLE NSIC FORECAST: In their annual preseason poll, the NSIC coaches again picked the four-time defending league champion Bulldogs to top the 2012 standings. This is nothing new for UMD, which has been tabbed the NSIC preseason favorite in each of its last six years of league membership (2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008 and 2003). Winona State was targeted for a third-place finish behind the Bulldogs and reigning South Division kingpin Minnesota State University-Mankato in the expanded 16-team NSIC.
TOP OF THE HEAP: Since 1999, the Bulldogs and/or Warriors have collared at least a share of every NSIC championship but one -- that being the 2006 crown which wound up in the hands of Bemidji State University. Winona State, incidentally, finished just one game back of the Beavers that year while UMD was off wrapping up its third season of warfare in the now-defunct North Central Conference).
NOT IN OUR HOUSE: The Bulldogs have won 34 consecutive NSIC engagements at Malosky Stadium, going back to a 37-27 loss to Concordia University-St. Paul on Oct. 7, 2000. Even more impressive, UMD is 39-0 overall against NSIC schools (NCAA II playoffs and non-conference games) during that stretch.
START ME UP: Some eight Bulldogs made their first starts as Bulldogs in the season-opening triumph at Southwest State University. That group included junior left cornerback Chris Blake, sophomore outside linebacker Gavin Brown, senior left offensive tackle Jake Bscherer, a transfer from the University of Wisconsin who played three seasons with the Badgers, with the last of those coming in 2009 when he appeared in all 13 games and started six of those, senior strong safety Jordan Hoekstra, sophomore right offensive guard Andrew Muer, junior tight end Jeremy Reierson (another former member of Wisconsin Badger program), senior inside linebacker Blake Rogers, and junior outside linebacker Nate Zuk.
In addition, redshirted freshman Andrew Brees made his collegiate placekicking debut against Southwest Minnesota State and nailed a 23-yard field goal in his lone attempt and went 4-for4 in extra points.
CUTTING TO THE CHASE: Senior quarterback Chase Vogler, who has compiled a 37-4 record as a collegiate starter (a school record for wins) since taking over that role three years ago as a true freshman, currently ranks third all-time among Bulldogs both in passing yardage (5,512) and total offense (7,536 yards). In 43 career appearances with the Bulldogs, Vogler has completed 62.7 percent of his passes (including a NSIC-leading 64.7 mark last fall) and has also run for more yards (2,024 for a 5.1 yards per carry average) than any field general to ever wear a UMD uniform. The 236 yards Vogler threw for in last Thursday's 45-20 win at Southwest Minnesota State were a career high, eclipsing his previous best by 19 yards (versus Augustana College on Sept. 19, 2009).
THE DRIVE FOR FIVE CONTINUES: This fall, UMD has its collective sights on becoming the first school in nearly 60 years to lay claim to five successive NSIC titles. The Bulldogs, the league's first four-peat champions since 1978 (University of Minnesota-Morris) would join St. Cloud State University (1951-55) in that exclusive club.
BULLDOG BITS: UMD is off to a 1-0 start for the 13th year in a row and the 40th time in the last 46 years ... True sophomore wide receiver Zach Zweifel, UMD's 2011 reception leader, equalled a personal best last Thursday with a team-high six catches at Southwest Minnesota State .... This season marks the first time in the 80-year history of UMD football that the entire regular season schedule consists of conference games only ... Senior left offensive guard Garth Heikkinen, who received All-American citations from four different groups last season -- American Football Coaches Association (first team), Associated Press (Little All-American second team), D2Football.com (first team) and Daktronics (first team), has answered the starting call in all 43 games over the past three seasons. Those 43 consecutive starts are just four shy of the program record set by All-American quarterback and one-time Harlon Hill Award quarterfinalist Ted Schlafke (2005-08). Heikkinen, senior quarterback Chase Vogler and senior free safety Cameron Harper are the only three Bulldogs who have played in each of the 43 games since the start of the 2009 season ... With the exception of two times (Sept. 19, 2011 and Oct. 31, 2011), UMD has cracked the Top 10 in every AFCA II poll since Sept. 29, 2008. It did hold down the top spot in that ranking from Nov. 8, 2010 until after its 7-0 loss to Wayne State College early last season when it tumbled to No. 11 ... Junior outside linebacker Nat Zuk, who was sidelined the final two months of the 2011 season with a knee injury, topped all Bulldogs in tackles in the 2012 season opener with seven and had one of the team's six pass breakups ... Twelve different Bulldogs posted offensive statistics (rushing or receiving) and another 17 figured in on at least one tackle against Southwest Minnesota State ... UMD has now gone five games without intercepting a pass. The last Bulldog to turn that trick was current junior cornerback Chris Blake on Nov. 5 against the University of Minnesota Crookston at Malosky Stadium ... The Bulldogs are 90-1 in the last 91 outings they've been ahead after three quarters -- a run which dates back to November 2001 ... Cornerback Darion Fletcher was one of 10 Bulldogs who made their UMD playing debuts at Southwest Minnesota State University, but the only first-year freshman to do so ... Both legendary UMD head football coach Jim Malosky, who passed away last December, and long-time football equipment manager and assistant coach Scott Hanna, who retired last spring, will be given a tribute at Saturday night's seaosn opener.
ON TAP: The Bulldogs will be back on the road for a Sept. 15 clash with with Concordia University-St. Paul.
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