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.

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.

 

 

 

First comeback

Photo Credit: Russell Hons -UND Athletics

On a rain-soaked Bronson Field, the Fighting Hawks of UND accomplished something that had never been done under the leadership of Head Coach Chris Logan. This team went down 1-0 to the Gaels of St Mary’s College 51:44 into the match on a corner kick that found its way to Malia Alison to open the scoring ledger for the day.

That lead lasted a mere 1:56 as a perfectly placed Bailey McNitt corner found Mara Yapello who was able to tie things up on a shot to the left side of the net.

The score would remain level until the second overtime frame because of UND goalie Catherine Klein parrying away a number of great looks for the Gaels.

107:58 into the match, once again the game was on Bailey McNitt’s foot. After recently coming on as a late substitute for Mimi Eiden , her skills at the corner flag were needed once again. She placed a ball in a tough spot for the Gaels who were unable to clear it from danger. Then Mara Yapello found Meghan Wilson who put home the golden goal for the Fighting Hawks.

UND finished a home weekend against two quality non-conference opponents in Montana and St. Mary’s undefeated. Today’s match presented different challenges as the Fighting Hawks faced one of the fastest teams they will see all season. In a battle of speed against speed UND was able to hang on through tough stretches and come out with a hard-earned victory.

Going forward, this team can build on a few things like ensuring a more stable possession throughout the middle of the field. As Logan noted, when the team is able to do that, given the skilled players they have, they become much harder to defend.

As UND works on that they can gain more options to utilize their strong speed on the wings to open up quality looks on goal.

Now the Fighting Hawks head out on a two game road trip through South Carolina to build on this weekend’s results. The Fighting Hawks take on South Carolina State and The Citadel this week before returning home on September 6 to take on Chicago State.

If this team can keep improving as they have under Logan since he came to campus then this season promises to be as electric as today’s result is.