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College football: UMD, Sioux Falls expecting physical NSIC contest

Cougars have the top-ranked scoring offense in the league and second-ranked scoring defense.

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Senior running back Thuro Reisdorfer has rushed for 2,752 yards and 27 touchdowns in his career for the Sioux Falls Cougars.
Xavier Blackwell / USF Athletics
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DULUTH — Minnesota Duluth football coach Curt Wiese has watched plenty of video this week in preparation for Saturday’s NSIC game at Sioux Falls, and the thing that jumps out at Wiese is just how physical the Cougars are on both sides of the football.

“They’re a very talented, fast and physical football team,” Wiese said. “They’re very good in the running game. They’re good. It’ll be a very different football game than any we’ve played through the first three weeks. The speed of their offensive and defensive fronts is considerably different.”

That’s high praise given the Bulldogs (2-1) have already seen, and lost, 17-10, at perennial power Minnesota State-Mankato.

Sioux Falls (3-0) is one of three undefeated teams left in the NSIC, a 14-team league for football, including Augustana (3-0) and Wayne State (3-0). All those teams are part of the South Division. While Augie was picked as the top team in the league in the preseason coaches’ poll, Sioux Falls was tied for fourth with Mankato while Wayne State was slotted eighth.

Sioux Falls, which has gone 35-14 in coach Jon Anderson’s five seasons, follows a simple blueprint for success.

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“I think our identity is controlling the line of scrimmage, which we strive to do on both sides of the football,” Anderson said. “That’s how we want to play, that’s how we recruit. Running the ball and stopping the run is something I believe you’ve got to do in the Northern Sun, and I believe you’ve got to do in the playoffs. We’re going to make that a priority.”

Sioux Falls leads the NSIC in scoring at 35 points per game and is second in points allowed at 12.3 ppg. UMD is ranked eighth (23 ppg) and third (14.7 ppg), respectively.

Breaking down the stats further, the Cougars lead the league in rushing offense at 258.3 yards per game and rushing defense at 29 ypg. That’s a 229-yard disparity. UMD, meanwhile, ranks third (217.7 ypg) and fourth (86.7 ypg), respectively, in those departments.

While the teams have a little different look defensively, with Sioux Falls utilizing a 4-3 and UMD utilizing more linebackers as part of a 3-4 variant, Wiese said preparation this week was akin to looking in the mirror.

“I talked to our team about that this week,” Wiese said. “You’re looking at two of the top defensive teams in the conference, and two teams that pride themselves on rushing the football, and being able to throw play action. It’ll be a very evenly matched game schematically.”

Sioux Falls senior running back and hometown product Thuro Reisdorfer is second in the NSIC and seventh in the nation with 386 rushing yards. He’s averaging 128.7 rushing yards per game on 6.0 yards per carry and has scored four touchdowns. Reisdorfer is a 6-foot-1, 215-pound graduate student with 13 career 100-yard games.

Reisdorfer is one of seven or eight sixth-year players on the roster. The Cougars fared better this offseason retaining players who took advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA after the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 season.

“Thuro Reisdorfer is as good as they come, not just in our league but around the country as far as I’m concerned at the D-II level,” Anderson said. “He’s been doing it for multiple years now. He puts up big numbers. He’s patient and is a physical downhill runner but had a 70-plus yard touchdown the other night, too. Paired up with (junior) Landon Freeman, who had 800 yards last year as our second back, and I think they’re both capable of being featured guys and they’re both capable of carrying the load. What a great situation to have for us.”

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Sioux Falls quarterback Adam Mullen drops back to pass in a game against Minot State.
Xavier Blackwell / USF Athletics

The Cougars certainly aren’t one-dimensional, either, as sophomore quarterback Adam Mullen is second in the NSIC with 755 yards passing and three touchdowns, good for 251.7 ypg.

“Adam Mullen is doing an outstanding job building off a successful first year as a starter in ’21 and doing good things,” Anderson said. “He’s got a good arm, he’s talented and super studious. He knows where to go with the football and is an extension of our coordinator. He does a lot of things on the field that go unnoticed but he gets us into better situations, seeing what the defense is doing. I’m clearly impressed with his first three games.”

UMD made the 28-team NCAA playoff field last season with two losses so Wiese wasn’t about to call this game a must-win.

However, with one loss already, the Bulldogs wouldn’t mind having a little wiggle room as they go forward in their quest to make their sixth NCAA Division II playoff appearance in Wiese’s nine seasons.

“It’s early in the season and looking at the conference all the way across the board, it’s pretty evenly matched,” Wiese said. “This year there hasn’t been a lot of blowouts, from top to bottom, so you have to show up each week to play. Who knows how it will sort itself out?”

MINNESOTA DULUTH AT SIOUX FALLS
What: NSIC football game; Sioux Falls’ homecoming game
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: Bob Young Field, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Records: UMD 2-1, Sioux Falls 3-0
Forecast: Mostly sunny with a high of 76 and 10-20 mph wind
Internet: nsicnetwork.com/umdbulldogs
Radio: KDAL 610 AM & 103.9 FM

MINNESOTA DULUTH AT SIOUX FALLS
National rankings: Neither team is ranked but Sioux Falls is receiving votes in the American Football Coaches Association NCAA Division II rankings.
Series: Sioux Falls leads 3-1, including a 34-3 victory in their last meeting Oct. 19, 2019, in Sioux Falls.
Coaches: Curt Wiese is 82-19 in nine seasons at UMD; Jon Anderson is 35-14 in five seasons at Sioux Falls.
Outlook: UMD is coming off a 28-6 NSIC victory over Upper Iowa on Military Appreciation Weekend as senior slot receiver Byron Bynum had four receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown, all in the first half as UMD built a 21-6 lead and then rode its defense and running game in the second half. Sophomore quarterback Logan Graetz was 8-for-15 passing for 137 yards, with a touchdown and interception, while safety Tim Pokornowski of Cloquet led the defense with six tackles, including a tackle for loss and a fumble recovery. UMD had a 424-187 advantage in total offense, including 287-25 on the ground. … Sioux Falls is coming off a 44-23 NSIC victory at Concordia-St. Paul as senior running back Thuro Reisdorfer rushed 19 times for 159 yards and two touchdowns, including a season-long 78-yarder. Sophomore quarterback Adam Mullen added 268 passing yards on an efficient 15-for-22 passing, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. His top target was senior wide receiver Ethan Wittenburg, who caught five passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. … At 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, Reisdorfer is known as a bruiser but also has breakaway speed. He had a career-long 98-yard touchdown run in 2019 and has been a candidate for the Harlon Hill Award as Division II football’s player of the year. He has 2,752 career rushing yards and 27 touchdowns. … Sioux Falls leads the NSIC in scoring at 35 points per game and total offense at 510 yards per contest. The Cougars are second in scoring defense at 12.3 ppg. The Sioux Falls defense is third in the NSIC in total defense, allowing 237.7 yards per contest, while UMD leads the league at 231.7.
Injury update
Helping bolster UMD’s prospects this weekend is the expected return of starting quarterback Garrett Olson and record-setting wide receiver Armani Carmickle.
“Garrett has been practicing full speed this week. He’s looking good, so we’re in a pretty good spot with him,” Bulldogs coach Curt Wiese said. “Armani also has been practicing this week so we’re hoping he’s healthy enough to go. I think he’ll get there. For the most part we’re pretty healthy right now. Armani gives us just a completely different piece offensively: a deep threat, somebody we can use in the running game and can complement Bynum in the passing game.”
— Jon Nowacki, Duluth News Tribune

Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at jnowacki@duluthnews.com or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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