SATURDAY NIGHT NSIC CLASH AT CONCORDIA-ST. PAUL NEXT UP FOR NO. 2 BULLDOGS
Thursday, September 13, 2012
The University of Minnesota Duluth's crusade for a record-tying fifth consecutive Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference title continues this Saturday (Sept. 15) when the Bulldogs pay a visit to Concordia University-St. Paul. Opening kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at Sea Foam Stadium (3,500 capacity/artificial turf) on the Concordia-St. Paul 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, is off to a 2-0 start this fall while Concordia-St. Paul (6-5 in all games and 5-5 in the NSIC one year ago) is an even 1-1 in 2012.
HOW THEY RANK: Here is how UMD and Concordia-St. Paul stacked up in this week's American Football Coaches Association Division II and the D2Football.com polls.
UMD No. 2 No. 2
CSP NR NR
THE BROADCAST: The Bulldog-Golden Bear matchup will be carried on 1490 The Fan (KQDS-AM) with Jeff Papas handling the play-by-play responsibilities and UMD Athletic Hall of Famer Scott Hanna providing color commentary. The broadcast can also be heard on KQ 105.5 FM in Grand Rapids/Hibbing , KQ 106.7 FM in Ely/Virginia and at: www.fan1490.com.
In addition, Saturday's game will be videostreammed live and can be accessed for free at: pennatlantic.com.
THE COACH: The numbers certainly speak for themselves. Two NCAA II national championships, five NSIC titles (including the last four in a row), three perfect 11-0 regular seasons, five NCAA II playoff appearances, 92 victories and a .793 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 92-24 overall record at UMD (that .793 winning percentage is far and away the best mark in the program’s storied 80-year existence) and is 162-57-1 (.739) 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) 92-24 (10th)
Overall Coaching Record (Year) 162-57-1 (20th)
Career NSIC Record 70-14
Career NCAA II Playoff Record 11-3
Career Home Record (UMD) 48-8
Career Away Record (UMD) 44-16
vs. Concordia-St. Paul (Overall) 7-2
vs. Concordia-St. Paul (UMD) 5-2
THE RIVALRY: Saturday night's game will mark the 10th meeting ever between UMD and Concordia-St. Paul. The Bulldogs hold a 6-3 lead in the all-time series, which began in St. Paul on Oct. 9, 1999 -- Concordia-St. Paul's first year of membership in the NSIC. UMD has won six of its last seven engagements with the Golden Bears, including a pair of season-opening triumphs in the two most recent clashes (40-0 on the road in 2008 and 56-0 the following year at Malosky Stadium).
LAST WEEK: Sophomore running back Austin Sikorski and sophomore wide out Aaron Roth each contributed a couple of touchdowns for the Bulldogs Saturday night as they opened the home portion of their 2012 schedule with a 38-16 victory over Winona State University. Sikorski rushed 16 times for a game-high 113 yards while Roth returned a second-quarter kickoff 89 yards for one score and caught a team-leading five passes for 67 yards and another touchdown. Senior quarterback Chase Vogler passed for another 115 yards and two touchdowns, connecting on all but four of his 16 throws in the process.
Concordia-St. Paul climbed back from a 16-3 halftime deficit and held off the University of Minnesota Crookston 34-24 Saturday afternoon. Golden Bear running back and current NSIC rushing leader Tre Sears piled up 187 ground yards and had one touchdown on 25 carries in the road victory.
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.
LET'S GET THIS SHOW ON THE ROAD: UMD is 28-2 in its last 30 games away from the venerable James S. Malosky Stadium with both of those losses being inflicted one year ago by Wayne State College (7-0 on Sept. 17) and St. Cloud State University (35-7 on Oct. 29).
ON THE RUN: UMD currently tops the NSIC and is 14th in the NCAA II ranks in rushing with a 262.5 yards per game average. Sophomore running back Austin Sikorski, who was sidelined for the final six games of the 2011 season with a knee injury, eclipsed the 100-yard barrier for the third time in his somewhat young career Saturday night against Winona State and now holds down the No. 1 spot on the Bulldogs' rush charts with 170 yards. In UMD's season opener, redshirted freshman Logan Lauters came off the bench to rush for 104 yards nine days earlier in a 45-20 raod besting of Southwest Minnesota State University nine days earlier. Sikorski, Lauters, and sophomore Brian Lucas, UMD's top three ground gainers in 2012, are averaging 6.8 yards per attempt between them.
CUTTING TO THE CHASE: Senior quarterback Chase Vogler, who has compiled a sizzling 38-4 mark as a collegiate starter (which is 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 (5,627) and total offense (7,673 yards). In 44 career appearances with the Bulldogs, Vogler has completed 63.0 percent of his passes (including a NSIC-leading 64.7 mark last fall) and has also run for more yards (2,046 for a 5.1 yards per carry average) than any field general to ever wear a UMD uniform. The 236 yards Vogler threw for at Southwest Minnesota State last month were a career high, surpassing his previous best by 19 yards (versus Augustana College on Sept. 19, 2009).
THE DRIVE FOR FIVE ROLLS ON: The 2012 Bulldogs have their collective sights on becoming the second school ever -- and first in nearly 60 years -- to lay claim to five consecutive NSIC titles. UMD, the league's first four-peat champions since 1978 (University of Minnesota-Morris) is looking to join St. Cloud State University (1951-55) in that exclusive group.
BULLDOG BITS: Junior cornerback Kenny Chowa's third-quarter interception last Saturday night was the first by a Bulldog in seven games (Nov. 5, 2011 vs. the University of Minnesota Crookston ... UMD has now won 13 straight home openers after enduring an 0-for-4 drought in that department between 1996 and 1999 ... Wide receiver Zach Zweifel, UMD's pass reception leader one year ago as a true freshman, paces the Bulldogs in that same department through two games this fall with eight catches for 106 years. He accumulated six of those receptions (which equalled a personal best) in the season opener at Southwest Minnesota State .... 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 44 games over the past three seasons. Those 44 consecutive starts are just three 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 44 games since the start of the 2009 season. Harper, a third-year, currently ranks 14th on UMD's all-time tackles list with 220 stops ... 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 ... Junior running back Chaz Thomas made his first appearance in nearly two years last Saturday and wound up rushing five times for 39 yards against Winona State. Thomas suffered a season-ending knee injury two games into his freshman year which sidelined him for all of 2011 as well ... The Bulldogs have now won 35 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 40-0 overall against NSIC schools at home (NCAA II playoffs and non-conference games) during that stretch ... Senior quarterback Jon Lynch made his first start as a Bulldog on Aug. 29, 2009 against Concordia-St. Paul at Malsoky Stadium and in that season opener set career highs for pass attempts (17), completions (8), yards (137) and passing touchdowns (2). The following week he was knocked out of commision for the remainder of season with an elbow injury, paving the way for Chase Vogler, whose been UMD's No. 1 signal caller ever since ... With 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 ... UMD has spotted the opposition a 7-0 lead in both of its two outings to date ... The Bulldogs are 91-1 in the last 92 outings they've been ahead after three quarters -- a run which dates back to November 2001 ... Cornerback Darion Fletcher is the only true freshman to see field time thus far in 2012 ... The Bulldogs have outscored the opposition 43-13 in the second half this season.
ON TAP: The Bulldogs will return to Malosky Stadium Sept. 22 to face Augustana College.
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