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UMD football team seeking milestone win

Kegan Wirtz (21) of Minnesota Duluth celebrates with Nate Ricci (5) after Ricci scored a touchdown late in the second quarter of Saturday's game against Winona State at Malosky Stadium in Duluth. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Minnesota Duluth has a storied football history, so storied you’d need a lot of chapters to tell it.

But one number sums it up: 500.

UMD (1-1) will be going for its 500th victory in an NSIC matchup Saturday at Concordia-St. Paul (2-0), something Bulldogs coach Curt Wiese called a testament to those who came before.

“There is a lot of tradition and pride that goes with UMD football,” Wiese said. “We’re honored to be part it, and to have an opportunity to have the 500th win under our belt.”

UMD’s first win came over Winona State, 7-0, on Sept. 26, 1931.

In 788 outings over its 84-year history, UMD has amassed a 499-265-24 record. That’s good for a .649 winning percentage, the ninth best mark of any NCAA Division II school.

But if UMD was great before, they’ve been exceptional since 2008, when the Bulldogs won their first of two national championships, with the other coming in 2010.

The historic wins show this. After winning its 300th game on Oct. 12, 1991, it took 16 years to notch No. 400, in 2007. It will take just nine years to notch No. 500.

Since 2008, only Northwest Missouri State has more victories (96) and a better winning percentage (.873) in NCAA Division II than the Bulldogs.

“We’re fortunate to be part of a football program with a strong tradition,” Wiese said. “Football programs are not built in one to 10 years. They’re built over a long period of time. A lot of people have put in a lot of time and effort to get our program to where it is at right now.”

The legendary Jim Malosky had a little more than half of those 499 wins, going 255-125-13 in 40 years manning the sidelines for the Bulldogs. He retired as the winningest coach in D-II history.

Wiese has worked to strengthen UMD’s bond with its past, respecting and remembering those who came before. It’s not unusual to see former UMD football players Scott Lyons, Scott Hanna and Al Decker at practice

Into the unknown

Wiese said the Bulldogs don’t know much about this week’s opponent, Concordia-St. Paul.

The Golden Bears have a new coach in Shannon Currier, who is in his second stint at Concordia after guiding the Golden Bears to a 32-12 record from 2000-2003, earning NSIC coach of the year honors in his final season with the program.

“They’re a tough team to prepare for right now,” Wiese said. “We have a limited amount of film on them, given the fact they have a new staff, they’re a young team and they’ve faced a couple teams that run an unconventional offense and defense. We’re kind of going into this game not knowing exactly what to expect. From that aspect, it’s a little bit unsettling. It’s hard to get a pulse on them.”

Concordia has an athletic quarterback in junior Ron Johnson, who has thrown for 355 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also is a threat to run. Senior Darius Chapes has rushed for 210 yards and another score.

“We’ve got to get a handle on those two guys because they’re pretty explosive,” Wiese said. “This is a 2-0 football team, so we need to go in and play well this weekend.”

Concordia’s defense has allowed just 18 points, but wins over Mary and Minnesota-Crookston don’t reveal much.

BWW throws Bulldogs a bone

Former UMD football player Ben Helmer sent a text message to Wiese last week with a Buffalo Wild Wings commercial that included clips from UMD’s 2010 national championship win over Delta State.

“During “Monday Night Football,” a couple of our UMD alums noticed they were in the background of that commercial, which was a pretty neat thing for those guys,” Wiese said.

Entitled “Heaven ‘Sports from above,’ ” the commercial describes its restaurant as a sports heaven, with clips of UMD playing on the flat-screen TVs overhead. The commercial can be found at youtube.com and ends with Sam Spence’s “Round Up,” the NFL Films classic featuring timpani drums, trumpets and trombones with their distinctive slide mechanism.

“Glad I could appear in my first (BWW) commercial,” tweeted 2010 UMD quarterback Chase Vogler, now offensive coordinator at Wisconsin-Stout.