MISSOULA — Before the season started, North Dakota looked like the team to beat in the Big Sky Conference football race.
The Fighting Hawks were pegged the preseason favorite to win the league and returned All-Big Sky talent in reigning Defensive Player of the Year Cole Reyes. Four of his teammates — running back Brady Oliveira, cornerback Deion Harris, multi-purpose running back and return specialist John Santiago and offensive guard Demon Taylor — were named to the preseason all-Big Sky team as well.
But a lot has changed since mid-July.
Reyes has missed the last two games due to injury and will be sidelined for Saturday’s game. Harris is out for the season after he sustained a lower-leg injury during a conditioning workout over the summer.
In recent developments, Taylor — and fellow teammate Andre Randolph —was kicked off the team this week after being arrested and charged with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. Taylor had another charge of possession of drug paraphernalia for manufacturing marijuana.
North Dakota is 2-4 this season, with its two wins coming against a 1-4 Missouri State team and a 2-3 Northern Colorado team.
What happened to the team that shared the league title last season?
Injuries. Injuries happened.
Reyes and Harris aren’t the only two North Dakota playmakers to go down.
According to this week’s injury report, three other players — Kyle Norberg, Josh Seibel and Donnell Rodgers — are out indefinitely.
Norberg is a senior fullback who started eight games last season and the first game this year. Seibel is a senior wide receiver who spent last season nursing a knee injury. Rodgers is a sophomore linebacker who started the first two games of the