(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).
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.