UNC's football team will look to finish the season on an extended high note Saturday against longtime rival and new conference foe North Dakota.
The University of Northern Colorado (4-6, 3-4 Big Sky) has won its last two games and has the opportunity to continue changing perceptions of this program on senior day.
Senior linebacker Herve Tonye-Tonye, who will be playing his last game for the Bears, said he wants to be remembered as part of a bigger memory - taking the program from 0-11 last season to a more respectable record this year and greater success in the future.
"I just want to be known as a player that showed up and worked hard," he said. "I want to be known as a player who was a part of this turnaround here."
UNC will also look to avenge last season's defeat at the hands of North Dakota (5-5, 3-4), during which an apparent final touchdown with a chance to win the game with an extra point was disallowed with 3.6 seconds remaining in the final quarter after the officials called an illegal block in the back on now-senior wide receiver Dominic Gunn, negating the tying touchdown. The Big Sky Conference announced a few days later that the officials had made the incorrect call.
Gunn has found his way into the end zone nine times in 10 games, catching six touchdowns and returning two punts and one kickoff all the way to the house for scores, so fans may want to keep an eye out for him in his final game.
Tonye-Tonye also said he and his teammates want to show the home crowd how far they've come this season.
"It's just a chance for us to show the fans what we can really do," he said. "We've played well the last two games, but we want to win and show our fans that we can win in front of them and give them a gift, basically. They're showing up, and it's going to be cold, so we want to make it be worth it."
Senior tight end Darin McDonald, also a graduating senior, said this game is an opportunity for him to look back at his growth from his arrival in Greeley to where he stands now.
"I was kind of a mature guy anyway coming in at the age of 21, but I still matured so much," McDonald said. "It's just basically seeing the difference between where you were then to where you are now."
Both seniors have taken the long road to UNC - Tonye-Tonye following head coach Earnest Collins Jr. from Alcorn State and McDonald spending time in minor league baseball and at Wyoming - but have made it clear they value the time they've spent as Bears.
The task of victory will not be easily achieved. North Dakota enters the game with an even record, but all five losses have come at the hands of ranked or FCS opponents. UND is accustomed to shootout-type games, averaging 34.2 points per game, but giving up one more point per game than it scores.
UNC junior running back Tromaine Dennis will have another opportunity to gain good yardage, as North Dakota's defense allows 235.7 rush yards per game.
UNC junior quarterback Seth Lobato, who was named the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week for his 418-yard, four-touchdown performance last week at Weber State, said those returning next year are rallying around the seniors on their big day while mounting more momentum into the offseason and next fall.
"We want to send the seniors off on a high note and in the same sense, we want to keep the momentum going for us going into the offseason and give us some motivation to work a little bit harder," he said. "Ending the season on a three-game win streak would be great."
The contest begins at 12:05 p.m. Saturday at Nottingham Field. All of the team's seniors will be honored on the field prior to kickoff.