NO. 2 BULLDOGS TO MAKE SEASON DEBUT THURSDAY NIGHT AT SOUTHWEST MINNESOTA STATE
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
The University of Minnesota Duluth will crack the seal on its 80th season of intercollegiate football this Thursday (Aug. 30) when the Bulldogs invade Marshall, Minn., for a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference clash with Southwest Minnesota State University. Opening kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at the Regional Event Center (3,000 capacity) on the Southwest Minnesota State University campus.
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THE RECORDS: UMD, the 2010 NCAA Division II national champion, posted an 11-3 overall record last fall and won a share of its fourth consecutive NSIC crown (a program first) while advancing to the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Division II playoffs for the fourth time in as many years. Southwest Minnesota State went 3-8 in all games and placed 11th in the final NSIC standings at 3-7.
HOW THEY RANK: Here is how UMD and Southwest Minnesota State stacked up in the American Football Coaches Association Division II and the D2Football.com pre-season polls.
UMD No. 2 No. 2
SMSU NR NR
THE BROADCAST: The Bulldog-Mustang matchup will be carried locally on 94X (94.1/104.3 FM) with Jeff Papas handling the play-by-play responsibilities. The broadcast can also be heard on KQ 105.5 FM in Grand Rapids/Hibbing and KQ 106.7 FM in Ely/Virginia and on the internet at: www.fan1490.com.
Thursday night's game will also be videostreammed live and can be accessed for free at: pennatlantic.com.
THE COACH: The numbers certainly speak for themselves. Two NCAA II championships, five NSIC titles (including the last four in a row), three perfect 11-0 regular seasons, five NCAA II playoff appearances, 90 victories and a .789 overall winning percentage. Bob Nielson has accomplished all this -- and much more -- in just nine seasons of head coaching activity at UMD.
Last fall, Nielson directed his charges, which included 15 All-NSIC picks and a quartet of All-Americans, to an 11-3 overall record and a quarterfinal round berth (their fourth in as many years) in the NCAA II playoffs before bowing out to eventual national runnerup Wayne State University. In 2010, the Bulldogs did something no other NCAA II club had ever been able to do – finish 15-0 for a second time. Along the way, UMD brought home the school’s second NCAA II title and third consecutive NSIC crown (a program first), amassing a 10-0 league mark for the third time in as many years. For his efforts, Nielson was bestowed with two of the most prestigious national coaching honors in Division II football – the American Football Coaches Association DII Coach of the Year and the Liberty Mutual DII Coach of the Year awards – in addition to being selected for that same honor by Don Hansen’s Football Gazette and the NSIC.
Nielson returned to the UMD sidelines in 2008 following a four-season hiatus and proceeded to oversee one of the most impressive one-year turnarounds in NCAA Division II history, taking a club which had gone 4-6 in 2007 and molding it into a national champion. Along the way, his Bulldogs rolled up a 15-0 overall mark (only the third NCAA II team to ever accomplish that feat), set or equaled 50 team and individual records, captured the NSIC title and turned out a whopping nine All-Americans. He followed that up two years ago by going 11-2 in all games and advancing to the quarterfinal round of the NCAA II playoffs.
Named the 2008 NCAA II Coach of the Year by American Football Monthly magazine, D2Football.com, and the Football Gazette, Nielson now owns a dazzling 90-24 overall record at UMD (that .789 winning percentage is far and away the best mark in the program’s storied 79-year existence) and is 160-57-1 (.736) in his 19 seasons of coaching at the collegiate level.
Nielson, a three-time NSIC Coach of the Year honoree (2010, 2008 and 2002) whose first tour of duty with the Bulldogs ran from 1999-2003, was officially appointed to his old post on Jan. 3, 2008. (He continues to also serve as UMD’s athletic director, a position he’s held since 2003-04). During his five previous years with the Bulldogs, Nielson helped marshal the UMD program to new heights. In 2002, for example, his Bulldogs posted their second unbeaten, untied regular season record at that time (11-0), advanced to the NCAA II playoffs for the first time ever and captured the NSIC championship. Nielson's resume also includes directing UMD to its inaugural post-season appearance (the 2001 Mineral Water Bowl in Excelsior Springs, Mo.) and the school's second greatest one-year turnaround to date (the Bulldogs went 7-4 in 2000 after managing a 3-8 mark the previous fall).
The runnerup for the 2002 American Football Monthly magazine NCAA II Coach of the Year award, Nielson, 52, joined the UMD staff in the spring of 1999 after he had guided the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire to a share of the 1998 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title (its first since 1983) and an initial berth in the NCAA III playoffs. He amassed a record of 22-11 in three years with the Blugolds, including a 10-3 mark in his farewell season when Wisconsin-Eau Claire notched a team standard for victories. Nielson, the Football Gazette’s 1998 Division III Coach of the Year, also was employed for five years as the head football coach at his alma mater, Wartburg College, where he strung together five successive non-losing seasons and attained a pair of back-to-back NCAA III playoff berths (1993 and 1994), and for two years at Ripon College (1989-90).
NIELSON BY THE NUMBERS
Record at UMD (Year) 90-24 (10th)
Overall Coaching Record (Year) 160-57-1 (20th)
Career NSIC Record 68-14
Career NCAA II Playoff Record 11-3
Career Home Record (UMD) 47-8
Season Openers (UMD) 8-1
NSIC Openers 9-0
vs. Southwest Minnesota State (Overall) 7-1
vs. Southwest Minnesota State (UMD) 6-1
THE RIVALRY: UMD and Southwest Minnesota State will collide for the 32nd time ever Thursday evening. The Bulldogs hold a commanding 25-5-1 lead in the all-time series, which began on Oct. 16, 1976 in Duluth, and have reeled off seven straight wins at the Mustangs' expense going back to a 14-9 setback in Duluth on Sept. 25, 1999. The two clubs have met only twice since 2003 with UMD claiming victories in both of those engagements (43-21 before a national television audience at Malosky Stadium on Sept. 11, 2008 and 34-27 on Sept. 12, 2009 in Marshall).
THIS IS YOUR CAPTAIN SPEAKING: The Bulldogs' team captaincy duties this fall are being shared a quintet of seniors -- defensive end Joe Akey, free safety Cameron Harper, offensive guard Garth Heikkinen, tight end Ben Helmer, and quarterback Chase Vogler.
ANOTHER FAVORABLE NSIC FORECAST: In their annual preseason poll, the NSIC coaches again picked the four-time defending NSIC champion Bulldogs to finish first in both the 2012 North Division and overall standings. This is nothing new for UMD, which has been chosen as the NSIC preseason favorite in each of its last six years of league membership (2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008 and 2003).
START ME UP: Some eight Bulldogs are expected to make their first collegiate starts Thursday night in Marshall. That group includes junior left cornerback Chris Blake, sophomore outside linebacker Gavin Brown, senior left offensive tackle Jake Bscherer, a transfer from the University of Wisconsin who played three seasons with the Badgers, with the last of those coming in 2009 when he appeared in all 13 games and started six of those, senior strong safety Jordan Hoekstra, sophomore right offensive guard Andrew Muer, junior tight end Jeremy Reierson, senior inside linebacker Blake Rogers, and junior outside linebacker Nate Zuk.
In addition, the graduation of four-year standout placekicker David Nadeau, the owner of 15 school single-game, season and career records, has paved the way for redshirted freshman Andrew Brees to get his first whiff of collegiate competition against Southwest Minnesota State.
LET'S GET THIS SHOW ON THE ROAD: The Bulldogs are an impressive 28-2 in their last 30 games away from James S. Malosky Stadium with the lone setback coming at the hands of Wayne State College (7-0 on Sept. 17) and St. Cloud State University (35-7 on Oct. 29) one year ago.
THE DRIVE FOR FIVE: This fall, UMD will set its sights on becoming the first school in nearly 60 years to lay claim to five consecutive NSIC titles. The Bulldogs, the league's first four-peat champions since 1978 (University of Minnesota-Morris) would join St. Cloud State University (1951-55) in that exclusive club.
GETTING OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT: Launching a new season on a winning note has become pretty much a given for UMD -- particularly in recent times. Not only have the Bulldogs rolled up 12 straight opening-day victories, but they are a whopping 39-6 in season debuts since 1967. The last time UMD started a year 0-1 was in 1999 following a 35-17 setback to visiting Minnesota State-Mankato -- Bob Nielson's first game as UMD's head coach.
BULLDOG BITS: Senior quarterback Chase Vogler, who has compiled a 36-4 record as a starter (29-2 during the regular season) since taking over that role three years ago as a true freshman, enters his final collegiate go-around ranking third all-time among Bulldogs both in passing yardage (5,276) and total offense (7,286 yards). In his 42 career outings with the Bulldogs, Vogler has completed 63.9 percent of his passes (including a NSIC-leading 64.7 mark last fall) and has also run for more yards (2,010 for a 5.2 yards per carry average) than any field general to ever wear a UMD uniform ... This year marks the first time since 1956 that the Bulldogs' season opener and conference openers will coincide ... Senior left offensive guard Garth Heikkinen, who received All-American citations from four different groups last season -- American Football Coaches Association (first team), Associated Press (Little All-American second team), D2Football.com (first team) and Daktronics (first team), has answered the starting call in all 42 games over the past three seasons. Those 42 consecutive starts are just five shy of the program record set by All-American quarterback and one-time Harlon Hill Award quarterfinalist Ted Schlafke (2005-08). Heikkinen, Vogler and senior free safety Cameron Harper are the only three Bulldogs who have played in each of the 42 games since the start of the 2009 season ... With the exception of two times (Sept. 19, 2011 and Oct. 31, 2011), UMD has cracked the Top 10 in every AFCA II poll since Sept. 29, 2008. It did hold down the top spot in that ranking from Nov. 8, 2010 until after its 7-0 loss to Wayne State early last season when it tumbled to No. 11 ... The last time the Bulldogs played a weekday season opener was in 2006, when they dumped host Bemidji State University 23-7 on a Thursday night.
ON TAP: The Bulldogs will be off until it hosts NSIC rival Winona State University on Sept. 8 in their 2012 home opener. It will be the first of a school record-tying six regular season games UMD will engage in at James S. Malosky Stadium this fall.
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