Superb Six

(Photo Credit:Russ Hons-UND Athletics)

Coming into today the University of North Dakota Women’s Soccer Team had a lot of things going for them. The team defense has been consistently strong once again. This young team with only three seniors is showing that it is developing chemistry quickly. The depth of this team has shown through as multiple freshman and multiple attackers had lead the way in each game.

There was one thing that needed to be improved on and was a consistent theme of every chat with UND Head Coach Chris Logan. This team needed to be better in putting home chances found in the run of play. Scoring a goal this way means not relying on set pieces especially corners. Three of UND’s four goals scored on the season coming into today had been on corner kicks. While it is nice that this team is able to score from set pieces, it is always better, like in any sport, to have diverse ways to score to keep your opponent on their heels.

Today, UND changed the routine as this team put home six goals in the run of play against a Chicago State side that, early on, stymied them with an offside trap defense that worked a few times as the Fighting Hawks were finding their footing. Mara Yapello lead the way for the Fighting Hawks with two goals to open up the scoring ledger for the Fighting Hawks. Yapello now leads the team with three scores on the season. All of that simply set the stage for what was to come in a four goal second half packed with perfection from the Fighting Hawks.

The first two goals from UND in the second came from sophomore Cassie Giddings who has proven very effective as a super sub off the bench for this team. She finished the day with a superb strike into the far corner for her goal and she would later set up Hannah McAra for her first of the season. Later on, Bailey McNitt unleashed an unstoppable ball that came from her left foot on the edge of the box and went across the goal into the top left corner.

Logan was excited to see McNitt tack on some goal scoring to her technical prowess, and this one did not disappoint. She put home arguably the most beautiful goal of the season for these Fighting Hawks to this point. Ashley Ebeling completed the scoring with a header on a superb Emma Bangert cross 77:39 into the matchup.

In goal, Catherine Klein had a deceptively quiet day for the Fighting Hawks. While she only had to make four saves on the day and was perfect doing so, she made some tough saves during the first half and spurred offense for UND immediately in one case. Even though she was not tested frequently, the quality of chances she had to stop today were arguably a bit better.

Going forward, these Fighting Hawks will face a different challenge on Sunday against Hawaii. The Hawaii side they will be facing, according to Logan, plays quite strong up the middle and through balls to the talented group of forwards that UND has will be tougher to come by. Look for these Fighting Hawks to focus on utilizing the speed of their wingers, chief among them players like Mimi Eiden.

Despite putting nothing on frame today, she was able to utilize her speed consistently to force Chicago State defenders to make tough decisions. Sunday afternoon at Bronson Field will provide another marker of where this team stands before Summit League play begins.

Regarding the Bison

This week, the Fighting Hawks face the toughest test they will face all year. For all of the new things the Bison of North Dakota State have, new coach, new starter, a lot of seniors to replace, they are still the best team at this level until someone proves otherwise. This is an opinion piece, from green-and-white tinted glasses but will also be realistic about what I think will take place on Saturday.

First off, do I think this game will be closer than the current aggregate spread of 28-31 points? Yes I do. If we see Andrew Zimmerman able to deliver the same zip on his passes he did when called upon against Drake, and if the defense can stymie red-shirt freshman Trey Lance with the bevy of different looks he will face, then the Fighting Hawks will make this game more interesting than the Bison faithful would like to see, and provide some hope for the first playoff entry since 2016 for UND.

Does that mean I expect the upset heard ’round the state to happen Saturday in Fargo? No, and let me elaborate on that a little bit.

I have seen Trey Lance play in person, mind you it was last year after the Bison had the game on lock down against a transitioning North Alabama side, but he can run the rock. Having a dual threat QB under center, combined with the consistently good Bison running attack is tough to game plan against. If Trey Lance can develop his lateral quickness a bit over his next four years in Fargo, he could rightly draw a few Lamar Jackson comparisons for his ability to deceive defenses and throw the ball combined with superb speed.

In addition, whenever I have seen the Bison play I am drawn to the skills of one player on defense. Their otherworldly good linebacker Jabril Cox who reminds me of a lot of professionals playing in the NFL right now. Cox  flies around the Bison defense and routinely lays out the unfortunate souls who cross his path. Until the Bison are beat in the division one era by the Fighting Hawks, they will hold the mantle of best program in UND, and for a little after that.

Does that mean this blog is an NDSU Blog? Also no

I will be writing a recap on Saturday for Hero Sports and tweeting in-game on the Seamore Sports account. I will focus on the game and what it means for both teams, combined with the great atmosphere I will expect to see in Fargo on Saturday. Now that both teams will be in the Missouri Valley Football conference next year, the football rivalry that divides yet unites this state is back on, hopefully for good. North Dakota and college football are better off when these two teams play each other, and thankfully as of next year, that will be the default.

Prediction ( which will probably not be the final score so take it for what it’s worth) 

NDSU 38

UND 14

The result we all see in the box score will not indicate how the game goes. I think in terms of pace, if UND can start fast early (a tough ask) they will trade scores with the Bison for a bit before NDSU goes on a three or four score run to end the game.

 

Sound start: UND Football takes opener 47-7

(Photo Credit:Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)

The University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks Football team had a lot of questions around it going into this season. First among those concerns is the offense. Under new offensive coordinator Danny Freund how would an offense built around speed and tempo fare. Well we got our answer against a Pioneer League team with a first year coach. The offense put up a whopping 437 total yards on the day and was able to engineer a smooth second half after a slow start.

The defense played relatively well all game, and were lead by their speed rushers, Mason Bennett and Jaxson Turner off the edge that made life miserable for Drake’s true freshman quarterback starting his first college game, Ian Corwin.

One concern for the Fighting Hawks to keep an eye on on the offensive side of the ball is the health of starter Nate Ketteringham. He left after a knee injury and his backup Andrew Zimmerman finished the game. He did put up multiple strong throws to engineer the bulk of the second half production for the Fighting Hawks as they used a 35 point second half to cruise to their 47-7 victory over the Bulldogs. The offense featured multiple gadget plays throughout this one, including a reverse flea flicker and wideout pass by Noah Wanzek that drew a defensive pass interference call.

With all of that being said let’s look at some good from today, and concern areas for next week as UND faces their best opponent they will play all season on the road in Fargo, the Bison of North Dakota State. The defending national champions play a relentless physical style of football that no other team can truly prepare you to face.

What Went Right 

This offense under Freund’s tutelage is 100 percent different than where it ended last season. He has called it a power spread offense and today we saw what that means. You will still see UND run the ball, but it will be from the shotgun a lot of times. What that allowed UND to do was utilize a lot of different looks and test out players in different positions.

Seeing Zimmerman be able to come in for an injured Ketteringham and deliver multiple perfectly thrown balls to spur the majority of that prolific second half, provides some reassurance going into the NDSU game next weekend. In addition, the offensive line played quite well no matter who was in and stymied what Drake wanted to run with their pressure schemes.

What to improve on 

This section will be very granular about the game against Drake, however this is not so much meant to harp on things from a big win as it is pointing out a few things to keep an eye on going forward.

The defensive line depth will be the biggest issue this defense faces all year. I am by no means the first person to say that, as Tom Miller of the Grand Forks Herald and the folks at UND Football 360 noted the depth of this group as an issue. Mason Bennett and Jaxson Turner are great and both had wonderful games. Beyond them, up the middle this team will have a lot to prove against the superb ground game of the Bison next weekend.

In addition, this team has to do better when it has momentum on its side. Multiple games in FCS football today changed on a dime because teams let their opponent hang around. Drake hung around through the first half being within two touchdowns. While I think Drake will play quite well in the Pioneer League this season, UND has to put together a full 60 minutes against whomever they play. If this team cannot put a full game together it does not have a lot of a chance against the Bison.

Going Forward 

Can this team defeat NDSU? Yes it can. Do they need to play the best game of the Division One era and have a few things go their way to have a chance next week in Fargo? Most definitely. This team will nitpick every aspect of week one in hopes of improving on a few things to make next Saturday in Fargo more interesting than the vast majority of those attending the game will expect it to be.