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FCS Playoffs: Weber State hosts disciplined North Dakota in first round

By Brett Hein - Standard-Examiner | Nov 25, 2022

Robert Casey, Weber State Athletics

Weber State defensive lineman Sione Lapuaho (93) makes a tackle against North Dakota during a game Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, at Stewart Stadium in Ogden.

It’s been five years since Weber State football played on Thanksgiving weekend.

Traditionally the time for the first week of the FCS playoffs, Weber State has been a national seed with a first-round bye (twice), had a playoff season take place in the spring (once), and missed the playoffs (once) since hosting Western Illinois in the first round in 2017.

That happens again this week as No. 9 Weber State (9-2) hosts No. 20 North Dakota (7-4) in the first round of the FCS playoffs on Saturday afternoon.

Senior receiver Ty MacPherson was part of that team in 2017 and has tried to share positive memories with his teammates of that week, from preparing to play at home to sharing a Thanksgiving dinner with teammates (eaten Wednesday night this year).

“Being here for Thanksgiving with all the guys and having team dinners, and just being with your team really makes you appreciate them more,” MacPherson said.

It’s not the preference to play on Thanksgiving weekend at the FCS level; drawing a first-round bye is the ideal but, once Selection Sunday hit, that was out of WSU’s hands.

“I said that we can maybe be mad for an hour or two, or whatever, but we’ve got a game in six days,” MacPherson said about the bracket release Sunday. “So feeling good, we’re excited, playoff football, playoff mentality. It’s go time.”

And the way this playoff bracket shapes up just like it did in 2017 and 2019, allowing Weber State a chance to avenge regular-season conference losses with a win in the playoffs, was not lost on anyone at Weber State.

“That was fueling (in 2017), the older guys, that was a big, big deal for them,” MacPherson said. “We’ve got an opportunity to play a really good North Dakota team. They’re tough, they do a lot of things right, they’re disciplined … if we can play our best game, then we will have that opportunity to play (Montana State).”


“They make you stop the run, they’re dang good at stopping the run. They find creative ways of getting the ball down the field,” WSU head coach Jay Hill said. “They’re very sound … well coached, they play with great technique. You’ve got to be tough to beat them. If you’re not tough, you don’t have a shot.”

Senior running back Tyler Hoosman leads the Fighting Hawks at 80.5 rushing yards per game on 5.5 yards per carry, totaling 12 touchdowns. Sophomore Isaiah Smith adds an efficient 35 yards per game on 6.4 yards per carry.

Junior quarterback Tommy Schuster has led North Dakota efficiently this season, throwing for 231 yards per game on 70.8% completion, totaling 17 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Schuster’s top target by almost two-fold is 6-foot-1 Bo Belquist. Wearing No. 1, Belquist has 61 catches for 790 yards and six touchdowns this season.

Fifth-year senior Garret Maag is back as a receiver for UND as well. He hauls in 44 yards per game and has five total touchdowns. The 6-foot-4 pass-catcher pulled down eight balls for 55 yards at WSU in 2019 and, as a freshman in 2018 against Weber, had two catches: a big 45-yarder, and a 20-yard touchdown grab.

A trio of tacklers leads UND defensively: senior safety Kadon Kauppinen (56 tackles, one interception), senior linebacker Devon Krzanowski (54 tackles, 5.5 for loss, 3 sacks), and sophomore linebacker Wyatt Pedigo (54 tackles, 4.5 for loss). Junior defensive end Ben McNaboe leads the Hawks with 6.5 sacks.


Weber State’s offense averages 35.8 points (15th nationally) and 407.3 yards per game (35th). North Dakota’s defense averages allowing 30.2 points (78th) and 394.7 yards per game (73rd).

North Dakota’s offense averages 30.3 points (37th) and 374.7 yards per game (59th). Weber State’s defense allows 18.3 points (sixth) and 297.4 yards per game (sixth).

North Dakota is first nationally in having committed the fewest penalties (38 in 11 games) and its 32.5 penalty yards per game is third-best nationally. Weber State, meanwhile, is 106th nationally in penalties per game (7.6) and 99th in penalty yards per game (64.4).


Jeff Sagarin, longtime college football computer ratings guru, ranks all of FBS and FCS together. His system ranks Weber State No. 95 out of 261 Division I teams. North Dakota is No. 128 overall. Using his predictive element and accounting for home-field advantage, Sagarin’s formula favors Weber State by 9.5 points.

Bill Connelly, another longtime CFB statistician now at ESPN, publishes weekly predictions using his SP+ system. His formula predicts a Weber State win by the score of 35-23.

DRatings predicts a Weber State win at 34-20 with 84.5% probability.


North Dakota has played Division I football since 2008. Weber State is 4-1 against the Hawks, all games played between 2014-19 when UND was part of the Big Sky Conference.

WSU is 2-1 in Grand Forks and 2-0 in Ogden, though each game was competitive throughout.

Bubba Schweigert is in his ninth season at UND and has an overall record of 54-44. In his ninth season at WSU, Jay Hill is 67-38.

Both took over their respective squads in 2014.

“Coach Schweigert’s one of the guys I have the most respect for. I love his teams and the way they play,” Hill said. “They’re super tough.”


The predicted high temperature Saturday is 40 degrees. That’s the expected temperature at 2 p.m. kickoff when some rain and snow could start falling for a period of a few hours. It should be about 37 degrees at game’s end.


The 2 p.m. kickoff will stream via the ESPN+ subscription service with outside talent Ted Emrich and Tyoka Jackson brought in to call the game. Steve Klauke and Jerry Graybeal will have the Weber State radio call locally on 103.1 FM and streaming online at www.1031thewave.com.


Two other Big Sky teams are in action during the first round of the FCS playoffs.

Idaho (7-4) visits Southeastern Louisiana (8-3) for a night game with temps in the high 60s. Bill Connelly’s SP+ has Idaho winning 32-31.

Montana (7-4) will host a frigid night game (8 p.m. kick, 23 degrees) on ESPN2, welcoming Southeast Missouri State (9-2). Connelly has Montana winning 34-27.


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