1.First, lets talk about how efficient the offense was. Keaton Studsrud went 22 for 31 with one end of the first half interception on a hail mary. The senior quarterback connected with six different receivers for 273 yards and two touchdowns. The offense employed a lot of different route combinations all day to keep Missouri State’s secondary off balance.
Players like Noah Wanzek exploited their size advantage over Missouri State to have a career high. The sophomore wideout was all over the field. He finished the day with career highs across the board. Wanzek generated 117 yards receiving.
Finally, for the Fighting Hawk offense, I was impressed to see the offensive line continue to gel. They allowed their top three running backs to all average four or more yards a carry. Brady Oliveira and John Santiago did an excellent job complimenting one another with the thunder and lightening routine. The tandem combined for 213 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries.
2. Eric Schmidt did another superb job organizing his defense.This defense limited a team that put up 43 points against a potent Mizzou offense. This is a defense that already is missing one of the best defensive backs in FCS football in Deion Harris. It also lost its starting inside linebacker Donnell Rodgers to injury early on against the Bears.This Missouri State team only was able to muster 211 yards in 48 snaps against the Fighting Hawks,
Individually, Cole Reyes and Chuck Flowers lead the way for the Hawks’ secondary. Each had seven tackles, and Flowers caused a fumble on the one yard line that halted the Bears’ best chance at points.
Up front, defensive end Mason Bennett had a superb day. He had three tackles on the day. Two of them pushed the Bears back seven yards (2 TFL’s) and he also had a key sack. The entire defensive line did an excellent job rushing Bears QB Peyton Huslig and funneling the runs back towards the center of the field. The Bears finished with 79 net rushing yards on 25 carries.
Finally, because of the score, Eric Schmidt was able to work with his staff to rotate players in and out. This ensured a lot of those players not on the two-deep got key reps at the end of the game. This will benefit the Fighting Hawks later on in the season.
3. Special Teams was the only real mixed bag for the Fighting Hawks. I was glad to see Reid Taubenheim rebound to make his last two field goals of the game after missing a 25-yard attempt early on.
In addition, the punt and kick return teams had a mixed day. John Santiago had a big opening kickoff return that was called back due to a late flag. He also had a muffed punt that gave the Bears the ball back, however he did have a 35 yard return that changed field position.
The Fighting Hawks did cover kicks and punts well. Added up, look for special teams to have a big week next week. Special Teams Coach Sean Kostich is an expert at making adjustments and teaching the game. I fully expect special teams to get even better next week.
All things considered, that was the most complete game UND has played so far. While the Bears are not a Big Sky opponent, they presented a lot of wide open looks that UND will see again in the Big Sky. To come out and put up the all around effort that the Fighting Hawks did in front of a crowd of 12,047 at the Alerus Center was impressive.
Finally, this message is for UND Students. Well done, Nodak Nation gave out all of its student tickets, and all of you were involved throughout the game. Remember this in two weeks as Montana State will be another big test for the Fighting Hawks.