The Fighting Hawks finished their 2018 season on a four game slide. With a '19 schedule that features six teams in the preseason Top 25, UND is going to have to persevere to make the this year's playoffs.

At one point last season, North Dakota was 6-1, ranked 22nd in the STATS FCS Top 25 Poll and on the cusp of being one of the 24 teams selected into the FCS playoff field in the program’s first season as an independent. However, the Fighting Hawks limped to an 0-4 conclusion to the 2018 campaign and were left wondering of what could have been.

“It [2018] was a disappointing finish and the way we approach it is that you have to learn from it and move on,” said Fighting Hawks head coach Bubba Schweigert Tuesday afternoon at UND’s media day from inside the Alerus Center. “One thing we learned is that we have to be a tougher team down the stretch.

“During the season or even doing football games, when you face adversity we have to better at handling that.”

If there was a theme for media day, it was ‘the persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.’ And although that is the definition of perseverance, the Fighting Hawks used another word interchangeably — grit.

“In order to win those close games, we talked about the word ‘grit’ and what that really means is that you gonna persevere and commit to each other and build those relationships,” Danny Freund, UND’s offensive coordinator said.

Nate Ketteringham, the redshirt senior quarterback from San Diego who threw for 1,835 yards, 16 touchdowns (11 Interceptions) on 54.7 percent passing in 2018, agreed. “It’s that whole word grit. Perseverance and embracing adversity when stuff kind of hit the fan you kind of just put your head down and keep going. … That’s what we’ve been preaching is finishing the season. Our ultimate goal is a national championship, is getting into the playoffs.”

For the Fighting Hawks to accomplish the prize that their eyes have set on, they will have to grind through a schedule that features six teams in the preseason Top 25, four in the top 10, including trips to two-time defending champion and No. 1 North Dakota State on Sept. 7 and national runner-up  from a season ago and fourth ranked Eastern Washington on Sept. 28.

“To be one of those 24 teams, you have to build a good resume and we have the opportunity to build a good resume. But right now, our focus is the University of North Dakota football team cause that’s what we have to do is get better and better for our season opener,” Schweigert said.

UND opens its season on Aug. 31 against Drake in the Alerus Center.

Chris Harris can be reached at charris@devilslakejournal.com and on Twitter: @ChrisHarris_DLJ

North Dakota 2019 Football Schedule

Aug. 31 Drake, 4 p.m

Sept. 7 at NDSU, 2:30

Sept. 14 Sam Houston State, 4

Sept. 28 at Eastern Washington, TBD

Oct. 5 UC Davis, 1

Oct. 12 at Idaho State, 2:05

Oct. 19 at Cal Poly, 7:05

Oct. 26 Montana State, noon

Nov. 9 at Weber State

Nov. 16 Northern Colorado, 1

Nov. 23 Southern Utah, 1

Games in bold are home games