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UND not embracing spoiler role as motivation against SUU

CEDAR CITY, Utah—The UND football team closes out the 2017 season with a pair of Top 25 matchups against Southern Utah and Eastern Washington.

At the start of the year, many anticipated these two games to help shape the Fighting Hawks' playoff picture.

But an injury-riddled 3-6 campaign has left some wondering if UND's mantra the next two weeks, starting in today's 7 p.m. kickoff with SUU, is to play the role of spoiler.

UND head coach Bubba Schweigert, however, doesn't embrace the spoiler card rallying cry.

"I don't know if that should motivate us," Schweigert said. "What should motivate us is being the best team we can be and playing well down the stretch.

"We want to control what we can control. The past ... that's gone. That's something that has happened and the facts and results are there. We're focusing on the future and when I say the future I mean our preparation this week to perform at a high level (tonight)."

Southern Utah, unbeaten at home this season, has won four straight. The Thunderbirds, ranked No. 17 in the latest FCS poll, have beat three Top 25 teams already this season—including an impressive 46-28 victory over Eastern Washington two weeks ago.

Over the past three seasons, the Thunderbirds are 12-1 at Eccles Coliseum.

"We want to really accomplish something this year and this is what's left," Schweigert said. "This week is the first step, playing a top team in our league and in the country and prove that we can win this type of game. The message is we have a lot to play for."

Unlike UND, Southern Utah has playoff implications on the line. The Thunderbirds would likely seal a playoff berth with a win over the Fighting Hawks.

"This is a huge game for us," SUU coach Demario Warren said. "It's a chance to try and get in the playoffs and a chance to play a team that knocked us out of it last year. We know how good this team is this year, and we've got to make sure that we're ready to play on Saturday."

Warren also noted UND's youth on defense and the impact injuries have taken on the Fighting Hawks' season.

"They've still got those two backs; they've still got their quarterback and they've got some speed outside at wide receiver so offensively they look really good," he said. "Defensively, it looks like those young guys are really coming along about four or five weeks into playing football like we were last year, and they're ready to make a late run like we did. They're starting to be the team that everybody thought they would be, and this is our opportunity to make sure they don't keep that momentum going."

UND at No. 17 Southern Utah

• When: 7 p.m. today.

• Where: Eccles Coliseum, Cedar City..

• Radio: The Fox (96.1 FM).

• Records: UND 2-4 Big Sky, 3-6 overall; SUU 4-1, 6-2

• Of note: Only six UND players have started all nine games this season—John Santiago, Patric Rooney, Ryan Tobin, Drew Greely, Tanner Palmborg and Torrey Hunt.

Tom Miller

Miller has been with the Grand Forks Herald sports department for the past 13 years. He's also a Grand Forks native and UND graduate. 

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