SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Minnesota-Duluth head coach Bob Nielson says he always prefers opening a season with a major test, and his defending NCAA Division II national champions got just that Saturday.
No. 1 UMD, bolstered by a strong debut from rookie running back Brian Lucas and sophomore cornerback Kenny Chowa’s fourth-quarter Interception return for a touchdown, was up to the challenge and walked out of Kirkey-Over Stadium with a 20-12 non-conference triumph against No. 8 Augustana.
The victory, which came before a crowd of 5,718 in a rematch of last year’s NCAA Division II quarterfinal, was the Bulldogs’ 33rd in a row against a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference member. It also pushed their road winning streak to a school-record 23 games and made UMD a perfect 12-0 in its past 12 season openers.
Lucas, who joined the UMD program this past spring from West Point Prep, parlayed his second carry as a collegian into a 67-yard touchdown which gave the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead a little less than five minutes into the game.
Lucas finished with 116 yards on 19 attempts and is believed to be the first individual in the 79-year history of UMD football to ever eclipse the 100-yard barrier in his inaugural outing.
Augustana, which came into the day sporting a 12-1 lifetime record at their three-year old facility, answered with a pair of scoring strikes from quarterback Josh Johnson to go up 12-10 at the half. From there, it was all UMD as two-time All-NSIC North Division placekicker David Nedeau hit a 41-yard field goal with 26 seconds to go in the third quarter before putting the Bulldogs ahead for good with another boot from 44 yards out at the 6:37 mark of the fourth.
Chowa, who was making just his second collegiate start, iced the victory with 7:30 to go in regulation when he picked off a Hanson pass and brought it back 39 yards into the end zone. Chowa, a Menomonie, Wis., native figured in on seven tackles while sophomore inside linebacker Colby Ring and senior strong safety Cody Eich each had nine stops. The Bulldog defense not only blanked Augustana for the final 34:16 of play, but limited the Vikings to just nine yards on 30 rushing attempts.
Bulldog junior quarterback Chase Vogler completed 12 of 18 passes for 114 yards and ran for another 30 in improving his career record as a starter to 26-1. True freshman wide out Zach Zweifel paced UMD with four receptions for 29 yards while sophomore Joe Reichet equaled his entire 2010 receiving harvest with three catches.
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