OGDEN, Utah — The University of North Dakota football program has been in this position before.
Just a year ago, the surging Fighting Hawks faced a top 5 Weber State team with an opportunity to build an FCS playoffs resume and catapult the team through the stretch run of a schedule that was supposed to get easier.
The Hawks lost 35-30 to Weber last season before ending the year in a tailspin, with crushing losses at Idaho and Northern Arizona.
With three weeks left in the 2019 regular season, No. 3 Weber State is back in front of a UND team trending toward a postseason berth. The No. 22 Hawks travel to Stewart Stadium for a 3 p.m. kickoff Saturday.
Once again, UND has an opportunity to pull off an upset and rocket up the national rankings. And once again, UND has winnable games down the stretch following the Weber game — this time at home against Northern Colorado and Southern Utah.
The Hawks can't completely erase any haunting memories of last season this weekend against Weber, but UND can make a big splash with a victory against a team that hasn't lost at home in the regular season in the past two years.
Against Big Sky Conference opponents, Weber State has won 12 straight and 24 of the last 26.
"They're very physical and stick to their game plan," UND safety Jordan Canady said. "We've got to take away their big plays. They have explosive playmakers and a big defensive line. They have some strengths we have to take away."
The Fighting Hawks had a second bye week last Saturday, giving coaches and players an opportunity to take in one of the biggest games in the FCS last weekend — Weber State at Sacramento State. The Wildcats cruised to a 36-17 win over a Hornets team that had taken the Big Sky Conference by storm this season.
"We watched quite a bit of it," UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. "What we took away is they're very physical and explosive. You really have to control the running game. To shut it down completely is maybe a bit unrealistic. They have three guys who can rotate in and are very capable.
"Defensively, they're really disruptive. You have to have a good plan and take care of the ball. They've been getting pressure on all their opponents. You have to be really sound in your schemes."
Last year, UND was able to limit the Weber ground game as now-sophomore Josh Davis rushed 28 times for 107 yards. Weber State instead went to the air, throwing 41 times with quarterback Jake Constantine.
Constantine, the starter again this season, threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns last season.
Schweigert said that's what makes the Wildcats dangerous: Weber would like to run downhill, but they're also comfortable spreading you out and playing on the perimeter.
UND might have given the Wildcats a run for their money in 2018, but the Hawks also had Weber in Grand Forks last year. Road woes have been a storyline for UND this year, with notably disappointing results at Idaho State and Eastern Washington.
Schweigert said the staff doesn't plan any major changes on the road as the team heads for its final regular-season away game.
"I think we're comfortable with what we do on the road with our preparation," Schweigert said. "You'll always look at what you're doing on the road, but our routine has been good for a number of years and we feel that we've been pretty good on the road against good teams."