Bulldogs ready to play football again
Minnesota Duluth wide receiver D.J. Winfield and his teammates watched a lot of college football on TV in the past week. With the Bulldogs having last weekend off, Winfield watched games all day Saturday and into the night on Monday. "Had to get ...
Minnesota Duluth wide receiver D.J. Winfield and his teammates watched a lot of college football on TV in the past week.
With the Bulldogs having last weekend off, Winfield watched games all day Saturday and into the night on Monday.
"Had to get our fix somehow," Winfield explained. "There were too many good games not to watch."
Now Winfield's ready to play some football as UMD opens Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference play on Saturday at Upper Iowa. The two-time defending NSIC champion Bulldogs have won a program-best 20 straight conference games, and despite opening with an impressive 35-10 victory at then fifth-ranked Central Washington on Aug. 28, UMD players have the first-game jitters all over again after the week off.
"We had one of the biggest games of the season to start it off," Winfield said. "We had all that adrenaline going, all the blood pumping, only to come back and have a week where we didn't really do much. We could see guys were slumping a little bit, but coach (Bob Nielson) got on us. We picked it up and we're ready to go."
Having a bye week is nothing new in college football, but the Bulldogs aren't accustomed to having one so early in the season. The break in the schedule came after NCAA Division II mandated that fall sports start a week later, thereby lengthening the summer break for its student-athletes. The rule change didn't occur until after Central Washington and UMD had their game contract in place, so that game was allowed to continue as scheduled.
The NSIC, meanwhile, moved its entire conference schedule back one week, meaning UMD's conference opener is Saturday, rather than last weekend as originally scheduled. The Bulldogs still have the maximum 11 games on their schedule, so they couldn't have added another game to fill last week's gap.
"Central Washington actually tried to get our game moved back a week but couldn't get it done, but four other teams in our league had the same situation," Nielson said. "When you have a bye week later in the season, you typically try to use it to get guys healthy. In our case we got back to a fundamental emphasis."
UMD also used the time to rest after the long plane and bus trip to Ellensburg, Wash., and then start preparations for another long road trip. Some players were able to go home for Labor Day Weekend, and UMD's freshmen were able to be fully involved in freshmen orientation as school started Tuesday.
While the Bulldogs were off, they climbed to No. 2 in the national rankings.
Taking it one game at a time ranks with the most overused clichés in sports, up there with giving 110 percent and having to step up, but that was the theme at UMD practice this week.
"A lot gets made out of the rankings, but rankings are worth very little right now," Nielson said. "We beat a ranked team and a lot of people think, 'wow,' but we're still a long ways from where we need to be as a football team. We still can't be satisfied with the fact we only won one game. Every week you've got to be a better football team because if you're not, somebody else is."