UMD begins defense of Division II national football titleMinnesota Sports - The University of Minnesota-Duluth(10-1) begins defense of its 2008 NCAA Division II national championship at noon today against the University of Nebraska-Kearney (11-1) at Malosky Stadium in Duluth.
From Duluth News-Tribune.com
DULUTH - Minnesota Duluth football coach Bob Nielson had grown tired of the comparisons, and he made an emphatic point following a Bulldogs’ victory earlier this season.
“Everyone wants to compare this year’s team to last,” Nielson said. “It’s not.”
Indeed, the 2009 Bulldogs have been a little less flashy and a little more run-orientated than their predecessors, but they have an opportunity to be just as special.
UMD (10-1) begins defense of its 2008 NCAA Division II national championship at noon today against Nebraska-Kearney (11-1), and no matter what happens at Malosky Stadium, Nielson is proud of his team.
“We said along the way that sometimes getting to the top is easier than staying there,” Nielson said. “We’re certainly not back to the top yet, but we’ve put ourselves in a position to get there, and to do that is an accomplishment in its own right.”
The Bulldogs’ blueprint the past two years has focused on running the football, and stopping the other team’s ability to run. When you do those things as well as UMD has done the past two years, you win a lot of football games.
Statistically, 2009 hasn’t looked much different than 2008 for the Bulldogs. UMD has outscored teams by a 41-12 average, same as last year. The Bulldogs’ run defense has been even better, holding teams to 54.5 yards per game compared to 61.4 in 2008, while the pass defense has yielded just 18 more yards per game.
Perhaps the biggest difference has been on offense, where the total yards have been about the same but most of them have come on the ground. The 2009 Bulldogs have averaged 304 rushing yards per game, second best in Division II.
“The bar was raised really high after last year, so to go 10-1 when every team we played gave us their best shot says a lot,” UMD defensive coordinator John Steger said. “Now we’ve got a chance to even further that.”
UMD had its nation-best 17-game winning streak end in a 13-10 loss to Central Washington in Week 2, a game in which Bulldogs quarterback Jon Lynch was lost for the season with an arm injury. In stepped Chase Vogler, the first true freshman to start at quarterback at UMD in 47 years.
Vogler has made plays with his arm and his feet, and his throwing ability has been good enough to keep teams honest in defending the Bulldogs’ vaunted rushing game. The result has been another remarkable season for a proud program that went from regional to national power last season.
“The way we rebounded from that Central Washington loss was a true testament to the quality of people we have on this team,” Nielson said. “This team has developed its own identity with a different set of leaders. They’ve proven that last year wasn’t a once-in-a-lifetime fluke, but that we’re capable of having this type of success year after year after year.”