Zips race past UND Volleyball to clinch UND Classic Title 3-0

Tonight, the University of North Dakota Volleyball team faced one of their toughest opponents of the season. Slow starts in sets one and three, and a resilient Akron Zips side in set two did in the Fighting Hawks at home and secured the UND Classic Title for the Akron Zips (25-14, 25-23, 25-15).

The Zips won by playing consistently physical volleyball, relying on strong attacks, and capitalizing on unforced errors to keep UND hitting out of its system tonight. When the Fighting Hawks kept it closest was when their blockers, lead by Lexi Ahrens in the second set, were able to hang with the Zips. Every time UND got close, minus the tie at 23 in the second set tonight, an error at the service line or the Zips would push the margin right back out again.

With all of that being said, there were some positives on the weekend for these Fighting Hawks.  Coach Jeremiah Tiffin was happy that the team got some bench contributions on the weekend from players like Sara Antic among others who picked up their team, especially against Eastern Washington, when needed.

Going forward, one thing is clear after the non-conference slate of this season being done. This team will rise or fall based on its starts. Keep an eye on who gets to five first and what the margin is. If UND can stay in front of that margin and force teams to play perfect volleyball, they will win a few more games than expected and have results more mirroring the pacing of set five against Eastern Washington.

When that does not happen, the results will largely replicate sets one and three from tonight where they have to answer back against a tough Summit League schedule.

UND now heads on the road to take on a very good Omaha team with some quality non conference wins, and South Dakota after that before returning home October 4 to take on Western Illinois.

UND Soccer: Why you should be watching

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons- UND Athletics)

Tonight, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks Soccer team struck first against a team featuring an All American, Boise State, on an early tally before the Broncos came back to win.

Think about that sentence, why am I including a detail about a loss to a really good Mountain West team on the road?

Well, Chris Logan has built this team up so much to where competing with anyone regardless of conference or talent level is now possible. The Fighting Hawks played a determined game today and now have more things to build on heading into their non conference finale on Sunday against Idaho.

Let’s go back to the Fighting Hawks’ last win. It was a 2-0 defensive affair over Grand Canyon University where the speed of the Fighting Hawks shined in the desert as said speed opened up set pieces and drew a penalty kick to provide the final tally. In that game, one of the best goalies in UND history, Catherine Klein saved a penalty kick 65 minutes in that would have tied things up. She did so despite an interesting choice of fouls to call. Her prowess on the goal line for this team leaves a legacy other goalies will have a lot to do to match in the Summit League for future iterations of this team.

In that game, and the one before it, against Minot State, we saw the speed of this team, a constant all year, shine through. Although not scoring against Grand Canyon, one of the fastest forwards to suit up for UND in their history, Mimi Eiden, tracked back to block shots and make life tough for the Lopes of Grand Canyon while using her speed to push the pace up front. Eiden is one of many stars on a team full of talent. Every time she is on the pitch, be it reporter, fan, or defense, you have to keep an eye on what she does because she is liable to run down half the pitch or more and score any time she gets a good pass. She will cause a problem for the defenses Summit League this year because of her speed and this team’s depth in making the other team adjust to them as a whole.

Speaking of depth, this team has multiple freshman already doing great things. One that has stood out already is Bailey McNitt. She is not only fast like Eiden, but technically Coach Logan and the staff have beamed about her skill and potential. How often can you sub off a star like Eiden and end up getting the winner off that decision?

Well it happened this year. Against the Gaels of St. Mary’s College, McNitt came on for Eiden in double overtime and laced a superb corner into the box that found the back of the net off Meghan Wilson. Every game she is earning the conference of this coaching staff more and more, and like the rest of this talented freshman class look to have an impact in Grand Forks for years to come.

On October 4th and the rest of this season, when this team is home, I humbly ask you, the fans, to come and watch this team. Attendance has been great so far and the atmosphere wonderful at the freshly renovated Bronson Field, but it can always be greater. This team could be on the cusp of their first top four finish this season if their depth and speed can continue to manifest itself in conference play against a talented slew of Summit League sides. When this team is on the road, watch the streams of games when you can, most are either free or really cheap on ESPN Plus (five bucks a month) or some other platform for not much more.

These Fighting Hawks have been in every game they have played. Their only two loses have come on the road to the Citadel, a superb Southern Conference side, and Boise State, a Mountain West side that should challenge for an at-large bid this year.

With all of that being said, this team is worthy of your time and attention. They finish their non-conference slate on the road Sunday at 4 PM against Idaho on the road. Watch the game for free on Pluto TV. Then come out and support arguably the best all around team North Dakota has seen in their time in Division One October 4th against South Dakota at home to open up Summit League play. This team deserves the full attention of a community that already has a lot of supporters, I am asking everyone to join UND’s eventual ascent of the Summit League. They are fun to watch and cover for this site, oh and fans in case you did not know it is free to watch them! Come out to Bronson Field on October 4th to check out this team in action at 3 PM, you will not regret it.

 

Defense and flashes of brilliance mark UND Volleyball five set win over Eastern Washington

(Photo Credit: Russell Hons-UND Athletics )

Tonight, in front of a decent crowd at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center, we saw an incomplete picture of how good the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks’ Volleyball team can be this year in front of an electric 888 patrons. They put together a strong effort on defense in a five set (3-2) win against the Eagles of Eastern Washington that featured five players reaching double digit digs lead by McKenzie Damon with 20.

This now 8-5 team had some success up front as well. Lydia Rutten did a superb job of staying within the system of first year head coach Jeremiah Tiffin among others. She lead the offense and was the difference up front. On the night she notched 18 kills on 33 swings with a mere 3 errors, good for a .455 hitting percentage. In a sport where hitting above .300 is considered really good, it is fair to say she was great this night for the Fighting Hawks. She gave credit to the consistent play of her setters and defense in giving her a chance to be that efficient. Peyton Sewell finished the night with 42 assists, spearheading the bulk of distribution for UND on this night.

In addition to the exploits of Rutten, the sole senior on this squad, Ashley Brueggeman notched her 1000th career kill en route to 11 on the evening as part of a double double. Only 18 people in UND Volleyball history, including Ashley have accomplished this rare and momentous feat. On defense she chipped in 11 digs. She played the back row on multiple rotations and showcased the versatility fans in Grand Forks are used to seeing her utilize on a game-by-game basis.

As a team,these Fighting Hawks have not shown their best for a full game yet. They already have had some harrowing moments, including a five set win against Marist, where the Fighting Hawks had to rattle off three set wins in a row after losing the first two sets, including the second set by 18 points (25-7).

This team showed something tonight. When they start well, like they did in the second, fourth, and fifth sets, they get into their offense, and as Tiffin noted, can play more aggressively and afford to take an error when on the attack or a “good error”. When this team starts well, they can make games interesting in the Summit League. Now, they have one more tune up against a good team from the MAC, Akron.

The Zips are one of the bigger teams UND will see this season, and play a versatile game where their setters will join the attack as needed, presenting another wrinkle to account for tomorrow night at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. Come 7:30 PM tomorrow night, we will get the final picture of what this team looks like heading into a tough Summit League schedule the following week.

UND Football: Bye Week Musings

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Heading into the bye week, the Fighting Hawks fly in where most expected them to be if things went right, 2-1 with the one loss coming to North Dakota State.

What we did not expect from this team is getting there with an offense incapable to this point of running the ball consistently save a few big plays and winning two games without Nate Ketteringham to lead them.

What does this mean going forward? Here are three things to look at post bye week for this team.

Who starts at QB next week against Eastern Washington? 

Well if Ketteringham is healthy, I expect him to get the nod as he has lead this team pretty much since he came here. When needed he makes the big throws and does enough to keep the team in most games. This staff likes Schuster quite a lot and does not want to risk him losing a red shirt year to play in a few extra games without a need, based on what I have read. I realize that Ketteringham is not who a lot of fans want to see based on the wonderful exploits of Schuster against the Bearkats.

However, I also know one is a leader who may not make every throw that Schuster does, but knows how to manage a game a little bit better due to his seniority, and knows more of what he will face against the Eagles. I could be wrong of course and Schuster could play, but as Drake saw starting a true freshman on the road against a tough defense can, at the first sign of issues put you at more of a disadvantage. Schuster brings a lot to this team, and having him for the first four years of Missouri Valley play, barring injury to others or severely not ideal performance, is worth more in the long run.

Is he Trey Lance, no he is not, could he develop into the next Keaton Studsrud with time, perhaps a little better? I think so, he has a lot of raw traits that Studsrud did without the immediate need to play as a true freshman (I realize he came on later in the year due to injuries but he did so without the four game leniency for saving the redshirt that Schuster has afforded to him) with the four game redshirt rule (saving Schuster for only injuries if Ketteringham can play is the way I think this staff is leaning).

On defense

This team has a defense that can scheme against anyone. They did well against the Bearkats considering how long they were on the field. One thing I have noticed from the first three games as an observation, is this team’s ability to consistently tackle on the edge and in the second level. They did keep the ‘Kats hemmed in a bit better than their time against NDSU, but it seems whenever this team has to play a dual threat quarterback, they face issues limiting their sucess. Part of the reason, I think, Sam Houston State tried that swinging gate formation on the fourth-and-two that sealed the game for UND, was because they showed the same look earlier before running a base look and their quarterback, Eric Schmid was able to run right through. If the Kats go back to that base look perhaps last week ends a bit differently.

Second level tackling and edge tackling need to keep up for this team to have a chance against any quarterback, like all world Eastern Washington QB Eric Barriere next weekend.

Need for speed

With Izzy Adeoti recovering from an injury and Cam McKinney moved to running back, this team does not have many over the top players on the edge that can run past players. They rely on strong possession wideouts and a lot of jump balls. While that has worked for them so far, I am expecting more teams to scheme for the fades and jump balls as we move forward with safety help and running two high schemes most of the time.

Until UND can run the ball more consistently or find someone outside who can break a game open over the top with consistency, be it through moving McKinney back to wideout or Izzy getting healthy or someone else whom we have not seen, this team needs a different element on the edge to make defenses think twice about how they are scheming for an offense that needs more options.

New offensive coordinator, Danny Freund, has done a great job opening the playbook and giving teams more to think about, and going forward for the future of this program finding or rediscovering an outside speed runner to open up the inside more will help everyone out in the long run.

 

Genius: How UND defeated No. 24 Sam Houston State 27-23

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Coming into this game, UND had some things to work on, and moving forward into the bye week before playing the always challenging Eastern Washington on the road, they still do. With that being  said, today the Fighting Hawks were able to not only earn a must win game at home against the Bearkats with a tough win, but they did so by out scheming them.

The 28-24 win had a lot to do with not only the players, true freshman Tommy Schuster came on after starter Andrew Zimmerman exited with an injury and did enough to keep his team in the game, while making multiple tough throws in coverage to UND’s talented possession receivers like Noah Wanzek. In addition, on defense Jade Lawrence finished with two interceptions, and Jaxson Turner and Mason Bennett among others made life tough for the quarterbacks of the Bearkats.

That is not what drove things in a vacuum today. It seems to be a common theme for opposing coaches to note how many looks UND’s defense provides. This Eric Schmidt lead defense is a lot closer to a pro scheme that utilizes the skills of the players he has to define different iterations of what to run as opposed to looking to shoehorn players into roles.

Last week, NDSU head coach Matt Entz noted the need to not teach too much of what UND’s defense to quickly because they can run a because the defensive playbook that is so deep. This week, Bearkats’ head coach K.C. Keeler called UND Head Coach Bubba Schweigert’s ability to scheme so well on defense “genius.”

When asked about that, Bubba aptly deflected praise onto Schmidt and his staff for collaboratively coming up with the best schemes each week for that opponent. While UND lost last week against NDSU, their defense had some moments of brilliance in part due to scheming, they forced NDSU to adjust on the fly, and the Bison to their credit did so. Today, UND’s ability to adjust on the fly to the high powered offense of Sam Houston State proved to be the difference.

In the fourth quarter, the Fighting Hawks simply schemed correctly to put Noah Larson in the right place on a 4th-and-2 that would have put Sam Houston State about 10 yards away from scoring the go-ahead and likely winning touchdown.

The Bearkats ran kind of a swinging gate formation where a lot of the line starts over on the sideline. Quarterback Eric Schmid took the ball and ran right at the defense. Thanks to the scheme drawn up for that scenario, Larson knew to rush and he made the difference in the end with making the stop.

Going forward, we will see a different team against Eastern Washington than the one that took the field tonight. UND wants to use the bye to get healthy. We could potentially see Nate Ketteringham back under center for the Fighting Hawks if he is sufficiently healed from his injury sustained against Drake.

UND does have some things to improve on for the Eastern Washington game, and they will be discussed here and elsewhere, but for today, this win keeps them solidly in the hunt for a playoff bid and shows them a way to compete with fast and high skilled teams, if they can execute the drawn up schemes, then maybe more coaches might call Bubba or his staff geniuses or some other iteration of the word.

What needs to happen: UND-Sam Houston State

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Tomorrow, UND and Sam Houston State will battle in a Potato Bowl that could serve as a playoff game for both of these teams. Whomever walks out of the Alerus Center victorious will have a slightly easier path to the FCS playoff bracket, while the loser will be faced with a week of self reflection and have to string together near perfection to achieve the same fate.

For these Fighting Hawks, here is what needs to happen in order to soar on to their next test against national powerhouse Eastern Washington on the road in two weeks.

Breakout with big plays

I want to see the second half offense against Drake that started when Andrew Zimmerman came on in relief. While it is important to have the ball for much longer than a ‘Kats team that runs a prolific spread offense highlighted by two mobile quarterbacks, Eric Schmid and Ty Brock. How do you mitigate the power of running quarterbacks as an offense? Well hold the ball longer and fire up some big plays. While the Bearkats certainly provide more of a test than the Bulldogs did, UND has to be willing to dive deep in the playbook against these ‘Kats to have a chance.

In addition, until UND can find a true over the top game breaker on the edge, these Fighting Hawks will need to be able to keep the ‘Kats off guard with their schemes and use deception and option looks to open up seams for Zimmerman to throw into.

Convert when you get over the 50

Last week, UND had some good drives against NDSU that were snuffed out. Be they interceptions or bad blocks or anything else, this team left chances on the table to dramatically alter the momentum of the game. How do you fix this?

Well, if you make the opponent’s territory you need to get points. Sam Houston State runs their tempo like a fast break and when you let their offense onto the field, it had better be because you just scored, preferably a touchdown. UND has to improve efficiency when they get good drives going. For Saturday to work well for them, watch how many times UND gets points of any sort when they cross into BearKat territory.

Edge Tackling

Schematically, UND played a sound game against the best FCS program, arguably in the history of football at this level. The Bison often ran through missed tackles on the edge to extend drives and force UND to use its untested depth up the middle which made it harder for their players to stay fresh on defense.

For as much as these ‘Kats use the edge of the field on offense, UND must sure up their tackling on the edge to match.

If not, the ‘Kats could walk out with a well earned win. In that vain, if the Fighting Hawks can sure up the edge of their scheme, then getting more reps to get big plays and converting more drives becomes easier. Up the middle, this team with its starters is quite stout regarding tackling and ending plays before they flourish.

On the edge, and down in the depth chart, that is not always the case. If the edge can be fortified then the potent offense of the ‘Kats hopefully will find themselves wandering in the wilderness all day while the Hawks can soar ahead, if not the playoffs slip further out of reach for a team wanting only its second Division One playoff spot in its history and first since 2016.

Prediction: Not a lot to go on in comparable opponents for these teams. This game for both of these sides is the first comparable FCS test either one faces in a battle for the playoffs. If the Alerus Center can maintain its loud start throughout and Andrew Zimmerman’s arm can come to life when needed, and the ‘Kats cannot run their fast-break style offense all game, then maybe UND can eke out a victory, but it will be close and most fans in attendance will be on the edge of their seats all day long.

UND 33 Sam Houston State 30 is my guess in what promises to be a Potato Bowl for the ages.

Surveying UND-Sam Houston: Three Thoughts

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

This weekend, the Fighting Hawks take on the Bearkats of Sam Houston State. Here are some thoughts on this one based on what we know UND needs to build on and where Sam Houston could both challenge them and face challenges.

Sure up the edge rush

Sam Houston loves to throw the ball. Expect the Bearkats to throw 35 or more times this Saturday during the Potato Bowl. One thing that will go a long way to determining how things go is UND’s edge rush. Mason Bennett and Jaxson Turner have been impressive in both the Drake and NDSU games so far and will have to lead the way for the Fighting Hawks on defense as is to be expected.

In addition, when I say edge rush I also mean perimeter tackling. Last weekend against NDSU, multiple times UND had a Bison trapped for a short 2-3 yard gain or a loss and missed a tackle on the second level. Those gains quickly morphed into momentum killing plays that lead to or themselves produced touchdowns. The Bearkats are just as fast as, if not faster on the edge than the Bison ( who are far better clearing lanes in the box and running over a lot of teams they play (see their opener against Butler for some examples)).

If UND can limit the missed tackles and confuse whomever the Bearkats have under center whether Ty Brock or Eric Schmid, then they can improve their odds. The defense of Eric Schmidt is one of confusion, and delayed blitzes and stunts. For this defense to work you have to be alright with whomever is not blitzing being able to consistently tackle. That is the biggest area of improvement to look for this weekend for the Fighting Hawks.

Who are these ‘Kats?

Sam Houston has not played an FCS opponent yet this season. They have hung in against  FBS New Mexico losing 39-31, and soundly defeated NAIA Oklahoma Panhandle State University 77-0. We do not know a lot about how these ‘Kats will look against an FCS side yet because we have not seen it, so I am wary to judge Sam Houston to severely to the good or bad based on their limited resume. That said, I know what these ‘Kats are good at and it is speed and tempo.

When UND played the ‘Kats in Texas and had to challenge the Sam Houston State offense last season, and did not succeed the tempo of the game reminded me of a fast break in basketball. When Sam Houston State rolls, no matter the personnel, under the offense of Head Coach K.C Keeler it can feel like being over matched on a fast break against the Michael Jordan lead Chicago Bulls.

Look for the ‘Kats to push the tempo and run a lot of plays quickly. If Sam Houston State can limit substitutions by Schmidt’s defense than up the middle could become really open really fast. UND’s depth up the middle has yet to strut their stuff this season, and will be tested on Saturday.

Final Thought

These Fighting Hawks are a good team. Andrew Zimmerman as the starter under center has a great arm and will show it off this weekend. These Fighting Hawks need to connect on a few deep passes to combine with the power spread offense they are now running. If UND can only run check downs and are forced to look underneath they fundamentally do not have the same speed on the edge that the Bearkats do, at least yet. We have seen flashes from Cam McKinney at running back this season and hopefully Izzy Adeoti is able to play soon, but this Fighting Hawks team needs someone of their big group of wideouts to be able to break a game open early over the top of a defense.

To wrap up, UND is dealing with flukes, that is proving which of their past two weeks is not who this team is. For everyone wearing their Kelly Green in the Alerus Center, they all hope that last week in Fargo against the best FCS program as a start of renewing an in-state rivalry was the fluke. If you are a fan of the Bearkats, well you hope that UND’s week one performance against Drake was the fluke.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle. Is this the 2013 team that blew out Valparaiso before having a season so mired in infamy it lead to the ouster of former head coach Chris Mussman? Of course it is not, this is a team rooted in strong fundamental football concepts instilled by this staff since day one of their reign. Is this a team ready for another crack at the upper-echelon players of the FCS be they Eagle, Duke, or Bison? Well we do not know that yet.

If this team wins Saturday that conversation can continue. If this team loses it realistically needs to run the table or at most lose one more game to stay in the playoff conversation. This team needs a signature triumph and an 8-3 record competing as an independent or a 9-2 record to be considered for the playoffs. Saturday at the Alerus Center is the next chapter and what happens there will help determine these Hawks fate.

 

UND-NDSU: We need a new trophy

(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

This past week of watching UND sports and keeping an eye on Bison sports has taught me a few things. First, both UND and NDSU have competitive programs in soccer, and the Halloween matchup in Fargo this year could produce one of the best games of the year in the Summit League this season. UND is 5-1-1 through its first seven games and will challenge for a spot in the Summit League Tournament alongside the Bison. This is the deepest team Coach Chris Logan has had, and as shown today when Mimi Eiden had a hat trick in the first half, anyone can score at any time for this team.

Moving on to volleyball, these teams play each other twice every season in the Summit League and already have fans that travel to either school to check out a great match up. UND is a young team with one senior this year, while NDSU could challenge for some hardware. That dynamic, as with soccer and other sports changes yearly based on players.

Why am I talking about these sports when advocating for a new trophy for this rivalry? Well, these are two fall sports that will not get as much viewership or attendance as the big one, football, already did when the Bison rolled to a 38-7 win over the Fighting Hawks, and I think fall is a good place to start because if this is to be a true all-sport cup, then all sports that have the Bison facing off against the Fighting Hawks should be able to participate.

That said, we need a new trophy. For reasons discussed for a long while mainly relating to UND retiring the Fighting Sioux nickname, the Nickel Trophy has been retired. Going forward, from covering multiple sports where these teams compete tough every single season, I truly believe a great way to spur interest and attendance at both venues across all sports shared by these teams over the season is through creating a challenge series.

Yes, football would rightly be included as would every shared sport that these teams compete against each other in, team or individual. For individual sports like cross country that aggregate team standings the team that “wins” could be the team finishing higher at the Summit League Championship for these respective sports.

Why go through this to create a trophy only these two schools can earn? Well in college athletics, money drives the discussion and interest in events spurs people to spend money. If you could encourage more fans from Fargo to make the trek to Grand Forks and vice-versa these schools would automatically benefit as they would see higher gate sales for these common games.

In addition, let’s call it the Gate City Peace Garden Cup for discussion purposes only, could encourage more corporate sponsors to either spend more for naming rights to the Peace Garden Cup, or they could offer special deals and incentives centered around these games. What I mean by this is tapping into ancillary revenues. So many bars and restaurants already tap into these bigger games like football to provide discounts, deals and general ways to spend more money. While I realize it is not possible to do this for every single event every time for these sports, doing more to capitalize on UND-NDSU will drive more business to these firms.

In addition, perhaps the winning school could receive a corporate prize pack from the sponsors in exchange for reads during games, extra signs in arenas, and other things throughout the year. Finally, imagine the good publicity that the sponsor will get when the winner can show off the cup every season at all of that school’s home matches and the good will they could engender within both Fargo and Grand Forks for participating.

Finally on a personal level, I see the way that fans still talk about the Nickel Trophy, if you create a Cup that both schools agree on points and rules for and let both work with their marketing and sponsorship teams to sell sponsorships for these special events then both schools can only benefit. While seeing UND play NDSU in softball is great, perhaps having that series decide who wins the bragging rights and whatever other fame that creates instant reads and marketable promos. I can already see Alex Heinert hyping up this series throughout the season.

I see the passion fans have for these games on either side of the rivalry. Increasing interest in all sports that these schools compete against one another in, while working to improve revenues coming into both schools is something I strongly believe merits further consideration. The Peace Garden Cup brought to you by (insert sponsor name here) is something I hope to see soon.

The good, not so good, and now what

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Today, UND lost to NDSU 38-7, a score pretty well within the range of what was predicted. Thanks to Sam Herder and my work with Hero Sports we were able to be there to cover the yearly renewal of what hopes to be the biggest rivalry in FCS football once again. My recap featuring an exploit the Bison found in the UND defense and how they utilized their talented starter at Quarterback, Trey Lance, will be on Hero Sports tomorrow, and again big thanks to Sam and Brian McLaughlin for trusting us to represent them today at the Fargodome.

All of those intros included, let’s now turn our focus to the visitors, UND.

What went well 

Part of the reason NDSU ran the edge so much was because Donnell Rodgers had the middle locked down for UND. Remember when he was lost for the season in 2017 after an injury against Missouri State? Well I do and teams had the middle of the field more open to run on a UND team that projected better than it finished due in part to Rodgers not patrolling the middle. Point being that his presence helped sure up in between the tackles for UND.

On offense, Andrew Zimmerman, new starter, looked really good for having his first start come in the Fargodome. He did overthrow some deep balls and NDSU made him pay twice for some errors of his with well earned INT’s but Zimmerman can make most throws and has some mobility to boot. Maybe losing Nate Ketteringham will not hurt the team if Zimmerman can step up.

These are the two biggest positives I think UND fans can take away from this one at the Fargodome.

The not so good

NDSU is still really really good at FCS Football, that has not changed since the 2015 game against NDSU and will not change for a while, to say the least. When you make mistakes against this team, they make you pay more than anyone else at this level as shown by the results of every missed tackle just to name one area.

NDSU is the 1927 Yankees of FCS College Football in terms of sheer dominance at the point of attack, especially at the line of scrimmage, and today was unfortunately no different. UND got some pressure on Lance, but needed more.

On special teams, whomever is kicking off for UND needs to consistently hit touch backs. The Bison routinely started a little closer to their goal because neither kicker of UND could consistently hit the ball in the endzone when it mattered most.

On offense, the power jet sweeps this team seems to run more of now stopped working real quick after they started. To run laterally against NDSU with any success you need not only fast players which UND has a few of, but an ability to run consistently up the middle, which UND did not have much of today. While UND will go back to this concept as they should, they need to run some more variations of it to keep the other team guessing. The Bison did not have to guess much today on defense.

Now What 

This team has one week to get ready for another potential shootout with the Bearkats of Sam Houston State. The Potato Bowl will feature two 1-1 teams looking for a win in what could be a theoretical elimination game from playoff consideration for the loser. UND did put some good things on film today in the quick passing game and in making UND run Lance everywhere. The problem came because they could not risk containing Lance or putting a spy on him too much lest they risk one of the other talents the Bison have burning them.

Do I think this team could beat NDSU if we played this game again in the playoffs? Yes, but the task is quite long and no teams have had success doing that for the past few  years.

Do I think, more importantly, if UND can beat Sam Houston State at home? Yes I do, however this team cannot get into a track meet with the Bearkats lest they give up 50 quick points on defense.

Is this coaching staff still capable of greatness? 

100 percent yes. Under Bubba Scheweigert progress in the culture has been improved dramatically which combined with better recruiting helps every part of the program. They do not play the games, they gameplan for them. Today, that plan gave this team a chance but even if the score remained, this team needs to be able to consistently adjust.

While I love opening the playbook under Freund, I would like to see a few more different looks and things we have not seen yet to see how this team runs the entire offense. I think the former UND Quarterback has a few more tricks up his sleeve, deployment of said tricks are quite essential.

In addition, next week for this team on defense, the Bearkats are going to air the ball out. If the defenders can get some more help in the second level to keep 5-8 yard gains to tackle on first contact, then next week at the Alerus Center could produce a good result.

 

 

 

 

 

On today: UND-NDSU

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

Today, the state of North Dakota will have its eyes affixed to the happenings inside the Fargodome at Gate City Bank Field. A packed stadium, combined with a strong television audience will see a start of a new chapter in the historic UND-NDSU rivalry on the gridiron. Thousands will flood the parking lot of the Fargodome for what promises to be a wonderful tailgating atmosphere.

Why does all of this matter?

It is a new day in North Dakota. Not only is the greatest FCS school playing UND, that happened back in 2015. Now, this game marks the first time in the Division One history of both of these historic universities that these teams are guaranteed to play yearly against each other.

Next year when UND moves to the Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC) they will see these Bison and this game every single year.

Why does this matter?

When the eyes of the college football world are on you, people tend to come together no matter what side of the rivalry you represent. With that comes opportunities for more people outside of this state to notice what’s going on in North Dakota. Will College GameDay come here for this rivalry next year? Probably not, however should UND elevate their play to the MVFC standard and challenge these Bison over the next few years, that is something that we could one day see.

Who cares?

Well, as Bison fans know, having College GameDay come to your city elevates the game, the atmosphere, and local businesses who will have nothing themselves to do with the game. Whenever College GameDay comes to a town, especially when they host it in the downtown area, people coalesce around the place and  a lot more people tune in to ESPN and end up learning more about the town the ESPN show heads to.

This, combined with this rivalry being back for good can only benefit this state. No matter the outcome today, the Peace Garden State will come together for three plus hours today around a game that so many people here love. Countless kids will watch this game today, perhaps their first ever college football game on television or in person and say ” I want to be like_____” and that sort of moment, that defining moment can shape the next generation of football players.

More North Dakotans seeing the two Division One Schools playing each other every single year will only benefit this sport in the long run. The same way people talk about Mike Mooney and his exploits against the Bison today from that day in 1993 will one day hold true for those playing in this game today and countless years after. Said exploits on the field inspire people, and drive them to consider playing football or simply coming to either school.

In short, yes to these players it is not a rivalry yet, but to the fans of both teams, today means so much more, it is a start of a new epoch in a long running series of football games, that no matter allegiances brings this town together.