Sep. 25—GRAND FORKS — Two weeks ago, it was the blue turf at Boise State.
This week, it's the sea of blue in Brookings.
The No. 12-ranked UND football program is expecting a hostile, sold-out Dana Dykhouse Stadium crowd on Saturday when the Fighting Hawks face defending national champion and FCS No. 1 South Dakota State at 2 p.m. in Brookings.
South Dakota State says all general fan sections for the UND-SDSU game have been sold out. The stadium's capacity is more than 19,000.
"It's going to be a great environment to go down there and showcase what we can do in Brookings," UND tight end Quincy Vaughn said. "We know the noise will be there. We know we have to be disciplined. If we can play a clean game, block out the noise, we'll do a good job.
"It's going to be loud. You have to really focus in the huddle and understand your job and assignment. Fans will be loud and say what they'll say but we have to stay focused and do our job. We know what we can do and know our best can be enough to do the things we want to do this year."
The Jackrabbits, who return most of the same lineup that won an FCS title last season, are off to a 3-0 start with a big non-conference win over Montana State that went down to the wire in Brookings — a win that packed extra punch coming off a weekend where the Bobcats dismantled a strong FCS program Weber State 40-0 in Ogden, Utah.
"They have a lot of talent, few All-Americans and you watch (the film) and they're pretty much dominant everywhere," UND defensive end Ben McNaboe said. "It's really exciting for us because it's going to be a great challenge. It's really going to come down can we go perform well, make the right plays, get after the ball and if we can play mistake-free football, we feel we can go out there and do what we need to do."
UND lost to SDSU 49-35 in the Alerus Center last season in a game in which the Fighting Hawks led 21-7 in the first half before an interception return for a touchdown cut the lead to 21-14 at halftime. The Jacks then outscored UND 21-0 in the third quarter to pull away.
The Hawks last played in Brookings to close out the 2021 season, falling 24-21. There were only roughly 8,000 in attendance at the late November matchup.
"We know it's a huge opportunity for our team and our program," UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. "It's going to be an exciting environment. They're coming off a national championship, they're the No. 1-ranked team in the country with a very good football team with a lot of experience. I'm sure their fan base is excited, and I'm hoping we have some of those seats filled with our fans.
"We have to go on the road and beat teams like this if we want to be included in the conversation for the top of this league. It's a huge challenge, but we're excited about it. Now, you have to take the next step and figure out how to win games like this if you want to be included in the conversation for the top teams in the league."