UMD done playing favorites
The Minnesota Duluth football team has gone into its games with Augustana the last two years as the favorite, only to wind up losing. UMD had a banner year in 2005 but nearly had its hopes for an NCAA Division II playoff berth dashed after host A...
The Minnesota Duluth football team has gone into its games with Augustana the last two years as the favorite, only to wind up losing.
UMD had a banner year in 2005 but nearly had its hopes for an NCAA Division II playoff berth dashed after host Augustana claimed a 26-23 victory -- the Vikings' first North Central Conference win in two years. Last year in Duluth, Augustana erupted for 28 unanswered points in the second half for a 35-7 rout.
UMD again appears to have a slight edge when the teams meet at 1:07 p.m. Saturday in Sioux Falls, S.D., but the Bulldogs (2-3, 1-2 NCC) know from recent experience not to take the Vikings
(2-4, 0-3) lightly.
"Two years ago the game was a tossup, and then last year they whipped us pretty good on the scoreboard, but it was tied 7-7 at the half," said UMD coach Bubba Schweigert. "We know they're a good football team. They play with a lot of pride, and we know we have to play better against them, but the focus has to be on us and how we perform."
The Bulldogs didn't perform well in the second half against Augustana last year, but it was apparent to the 4,515 fans at
Malosky Stadium that star quarterback Ted Schlafke was struggling with a bum ankle. Even so, Schlafke still passed for 271 yards but had five interceptions and a fumble.
He is 100 percent this year, and that was evident when UMD snapped a three-game losing streak last week with a 22-14 win over Western Washington. Schlafke led the Bulldogs in passing (a season-high 316 yards) and rushing (67).
"I don't know if you can really put a thumb on why we've had success against Duluth, but maybe it's one of those things where we matched up well and things went our way," said third-year Augustana coach Brad Salem. "Schlafke is obviously their go-to-guy who is a lot of fun to watch on tape. I don't know if you can ever really contain him, but we're definitely going to try to keep plays in front of us."
Augustana will look to bounce back after a 37-0 loss at second-ranked North Dakota before 12,148 spectators at the Alerus Center. The game was scoreless until nearly five minutes were gone in the second quarter before North Dakota's big-play offense started scoring and Augustana's offense continued to sputter.
Augustana managed just 148 total yards, compared to 512 for North Dakota, but the Vikings showed the previous week in a 36-23 loss to sixth-ranked Nebraska-Omaha that they can play tough against the nation's top-ranked Division II teams, especially at home. In that game, freshman Joe Clark rushed 10 times for 95 yards against a normally stout run-defense, and senior cornerback Dustin Rice returned an interception for a touchdown to give Augustana an early 17-7 lead before Omaha rallied.
Having lost three straight, Augustana is eager to get back to winning. Add the fact that this is the Vikings' homecoming and the game will be televised in the Sioux Falls region, and UMD sophomore cornerback Brandon Wood expects Augustana to play another tough game against the Bulldogs.
"We've lost to them the last two years, so this time we just need to go down there and get after them right away," Wood said. "They got blown out last week, so you know they'll be hungry.
"I don't think anybody on our team felt good about when we had lost three straight, but nothing is better than a win to get you back on track. We played better last week, but we can still get better, because that still wasn't as good as it gets -- that's for sure."
A familiar face was in the hallway outside the UMD locker room after Saturday's victory over Western Washington. It was former Bulldog linebacker Russ Rabe, who appeared to be enjoying the win nearly as much as he did in his playing days.
"It's awesome," Rabe said. "Big win for the 'Dogs."
Rabe, of Lake Holcombe, Wis., is UMD's all-time leader in quarterback sacks with 29 from 2001-04. He has since bounced around various professional football leagues, from NFL preseason and practice squads to NFL Europe and the CFL. He is currently living in the Twin Cities' suburb of Maplewood, Minn., working out while selling real estate with Edina Realty.
Rabe, 6-foot-2 and about 230 pounds, was invited to Ford Field in Detroit last month for a workout with the All American Football League, a new six-team professional league that will begin play next spring. He declined.
"It was kind of a last-minute deal," Rabe said. "They called me on a Tuesday night, and I had to be in Michigan on Thursday morning. I didn't feel like running 40s after driving all night."
Rabe, who still expects to try out with the AAFL, isn't giving up on his dream to play in the NFL regular season just yet.
"It's dwindling," Rabe said, laughing, "but there's still a shot."
JON NOWACKI covers college sports for the News Tribune. He can be reached weeknights at (218) 723-5305 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .