UND Football: Three Thoughts After Hawks Soar Past the Bearkats

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons-FightingHawks.com)

Yesterday, UND was able to head down to Huntsville, Texas and knock off a top five opponent in the Bearkats of Sam Houston State. A lot of good things happened for UND in this one, and some things happened that they will want to adress before playing another team in Idaho State at home that runs a similar quick-strike offense to the Bearkats. This 24-23 win puts the Fighting Hawks in the playoff discussion, but they need to follow up their arguably biggest non-conference non-FBS win in the Bubba Schweigert era with a continued emphasis on improvement and development for the win to have an even bigger relevance come playoff time.

The Good 

Starting quarterback, Nate Ketteringham can make most throws in this pro-style offense. During the game-winning drive alone he made a superb, high-lofting throw to Izzy Adeoti to put UND in position for the touchdown to Noah Wanzek. The 48 yard pass was perfectly lofted in between two Sam Houston State defenders. Adeoti timed his route perfectly and made a superb catch between two defenders, helping get UND into position for the go ahead fade in the end zone to Wanzek a few plays later.

Tank Harris lived up to his nickname yesterday. He was in the middle of a lot of strong play for the Fighting Hawks up front. His high motor is fun to watch on a weekly basis. His compete level, combined with the amount of reps he will get against Idaho State will make for an interesting facet to next week. UND being able to generate pressure with its defensive line alone, lead by Tank, helps the secondary get more options to cover another fast team in Idaho State.

One more positive area for UND out of yesterday, the running backs. We all know UND has a strong running game that relies on John Santiago, James Johannesson, and Brady Oliveira. What was nice to see yesterday in particular was the balance and the rush per carry average, everyone in this rotation averaged at least 4.1 yards per carry, over a first down per three carries. The diamond formation this team has employed combined with its lateral quickness with players like Adeoti have provided a needed wrinkle to utilize all three rushers in more ways this year.

Things to Build Upon

Penalties, while UND did a lot of things right yesterday, penalties and cleaning up some things are always a thing this staff wants to build upon. If UND can limit their penalties to less than one per quarter I think absent playing penalty free that this staff would like those numbers.

On defense, UND’s secondary had a superb day yesterday in the fourth quarter and first half. One thing I would like to see the team build on is defending the quick pass and lateral plays in general. They had multiple missed tackles yesterday on short passes that lead to big Bearkat gains. Also, these short passes are not a Bearkats only feature. Mississippi Valley State generated all of its offense through quick passes against the Fighting Hawks. Washington had 437 yards through the air on 45 attempts. That being said, the secondary has gotten better each week defending against big plays. Now locking down some more underneath routes and limiting gains are the next step for this continuously developing defensive backfield.

Regarding the Bengals

Idaho State played FBS foe California tough. The Bears knocked off the Bengals 45-23. That being said, the Bengals were able to put up 319 total yards of offense in a balanced attack. Idaho State’s quick strike offense will be another issue for the Fighting Hawks. The Bengals run some of the same setups that Sam Houston does.That being said, UND now has a lot of experience facing spread-type offenses that like to push the tempo. On a friendly field for homecoming six days from today, the experience UND has gained in their first three tests will benefit them against Idaho State. When the crowd is on the Fighting Hawks’ side, it just comes down to defense. If UND can turn a few first down potential passes into small gains and force third-and-long scenarios, then with a boisterous Alerus Center crowd, good things can happen for the Fighting Hawks.

UND is definitely “in” the playoff conversation now. That being said, how long they stay “in” the conversation is dependent on what they can do the rest of the way. That all starts this upcoming weekend as the Fighting Hawks defend the Alerus Center for the first time in three weeks on Saturday against Idaho State.

 

 

 

35-7: How Tonight’s Score Does Not Tell the Whole Story for MVSU

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons – FightingHawks.com)

When I talked to Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils’ Head Coach Vincent Dancy a few weeks ago, he wanted to see what type of team he would have this season. Well the Delta Devils found out a few things about their team tonight in Grand Forks.

Despite the 35-7 final score, MVSU found that they can compete with the teams they play. Dancy, and starting quarterback Chris Fowler noted their ability to utilize their superb passing game to move the ball as needed. He finished the night 22-39 with 263 yards and a touchdown pass to Demarcu Fraizer. The senior corps of wideouts for the Delta Devils will be their strength on offense this season,They made play after play tonight and did not drop a ball.

Fowler’s ability to find Frazier, Booker Chambers, and Quinn McElfresh among others will determine a lot about the 2018 Delta Devils and their performance in the SWAC. Chambers impressed me with his ability to create big plays both in the slot and in special teams. He finished the night with 150 total all purpose yards.

Head Coach Dancy noted some more things. The Delta Devils left according to him 17 points on the board as they gave up a fumble on the UND goal line, a missed 29 yard field goal, and not being able to punch in the best kick return of the night from Booker Chambers which only went for 79 yards. In addition, the Delta Devils played a tough game on defense and forced UND to run the ball frequently. Despite the final statistics, they do not tell the entire story for this team. While UND was able to move the ball, Coach Dancy’s defense forced some mistakes and made UND make plays to beat them. UND is one of the toughest teams MVSU will play this season. For Coach Dancy to take this team in his first game as their leader, and help keep them in it through three quarters and competitive throughout should leave MVSU fans with hope for the future of the Dancy Era.

One thing that stood out to me was at the end of the game. From the press box it looked like Fowler was motioning for the punt team to stay off the field to punt to UND to end the game. The team still punted but the body language of the Delta Devils showed me something tonight. This team traveled across the country to open up another season in North Dakota and handled themselves well. They played a team with a superb pass rush, running back trio, and talented wideouts just to name a few of their high-skilled areas, and hung with them.

MVSU still has things to work on this week, of course, if they can convert on half of their chances that they create they will be in more games in SWAC play and beyond. This bodes well for the future of what Dancy wants to do. He has instilled a complete culture of competition and 100 percent energy as a basic expectation in Itta Bena. As Fowler said of Dancy, “he treats us like champions.”  That showed in every aspect of how the Delta Devils warmed up and played tonight. If the MVSU that went five for seven in converting third downs in the first half can repeat the things that drive them against Jacksonville State and beyond, then good things both this year and long term could await one of the most storied schools in the country regarding developing top-tier NFL talent.

 

 

MVSU-UND Preview: An Interview with First Year MVSU Coach Vincent Dancy

In just three weeks, UND Football will open its 2018 campaign against the Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) Delta Devils at home in front of a raucous Alerus Center. I reached out to first year Head Coach Vincent Dancy for his thoughts on taking the MVSU job, what he is hoping to accomplish this season, and more. Check here for some thoughts from Clarion-Ledger reporter Tyler Cleveland on what to expect from MVSU this season, and what the Delta Devils should focus on as they prepare to make the trek north.

  1. What inspired you to take this job as head coach?
    • “I’ve always dreamed of being a head coach plus the rich tradition that MVSU has had in the past years made this job more appealing.”
  2. What type of style does your team play?
    • “Offensively we play a high tempo ground and pound system with multiple formations. Defensively we are an even front team with multiple coverages in the secondary.”
  3. Long-term, what is your vision of Delta Devils Football?
    • “My vision for Delta Devils Football [involves four areas].
      • For every athlete to complete their degree requirements.
      • To establish the football [team] as a consistent winner.
      • For [the] MVSU Football program to be one of the leaders in FCS attendance.
      • To win the Celebration Bowl.”
  1. What do you look to gain from your trip to Grand Forks?
    • “I look to gain a clear cut identity of who we are heading into the 2018 season.”
  2. Your offense features preseason 1st team all-conference wideout Quinn McElfresh. What do you expect him to bring to this team both on and off the field this year?
    • “Quinn is a special football player and our team knows that but we expect him to be more vocal and lead us on and off the field.”
  3. What does 1st team all- conference linebacker Patrick Harbin bring to the defense?
    • “Experience- Patrick has been in the program 4 years now and has been a contributor 3 of those years. So his knowledge of the game should help us out tremendously.”
  4. Who is one standout freshman fans should keep an eye on this season?
    • “Caleb Johnson, He’s a dynamic RB from Memphis, TN who can do a lot of things very well out of the back field.”
  5. What is your goal for this season?
    • “My goal is to have a first-class team and image in everything we do. Also, to be competitive in conference play and win games we are favored to win.”
  6. What does the program’s legacy mean to you, especially regarding helping 21 players get drafted by NFL teams?
    • “That’s one reason why I wanted this job. The legacy that Coach Archie Cooley, Willie Totten and Jerry Rice established here will forever be remembered. Also Deacon Jones, who invented the term “sack” will always be glorified as long as there is football being played!”
  7. What is the one thing you would tell fans in Grand Fork that they may not know about MVSU Football?
    • “That we’re hungry and ready like never before!”

UND Football:Getting to Know an Opponent-Mississippi Valley State

In a few weeks, on a Thursday night in Grand Forks, the UND Fighting Hawks will end their fall camp and take on the Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) Delta Devils in the Alerus Center. Given how little of the Devils’ conference that UND fans have seen come to Grand Forks, it made sense to check in with one of the people who cover this team on a more frequent basis. I had some questions about MVSU, and the town of Itta Bena, MS where the school is located for one of the writers who covers this team for the Clarion Ledger, Tyler Cleveland. Look for more coverage from Seamore of UND Football with insights on the team in the weeks leading up to this game and throughout the season.

The Delta Devils are lead by first year coach, Vincent Dancy. He takes over a team that won two games last year. MVSU finished 2-9 last season including a 1-6 record in the Southwest Athletic Conference (SWAC).

Below are my questions for Tyler with his answers included. For UND fans looking to understand more about the SWAC, give Tyler and the Clarion-Ledger a follow on Twitter and read his and work, he goes into depth into MVSU, Jackson State, and Alcorn State, three SWAC programs filled with tradition in their programs.

Questions 

How long of a rebuild do you expect MVSU to go through?

“I don’t want to put a number of years on it, but let’s just say first-year coach Vincent Dancy has his work cut out for him. There are no magic buttons to push when you take over a program that is 3-30 over the past three years, and Dancy wasn’t on anyone’s short list when Valley started the hiring process. He’s a great communicator and solid X’s and O’s coach, but he doesn’t have the built in recruiting connections the other two in-state SWAC schools have. He’ll need to develop some pipelines of his own, and quick.”

Do you see any similarities in coach Dancy taking over now to when Bubba Schweigert took over in 2014?

“I can see the similarities there. Both of their predecessors had struggled against the big boys in their respective conferences. Valley couldn’t get past Southern and Grambling the same way UND had struggled with Montana and Eastern Washington. Both landed their job by presenting a plan to get over that hump. The most glaring difference, to me, is the age difference. Schweigert took the Dakota job at 55. Dancy is one of the youngest head coaches in the country at 33.”

What do you think went into MVSU having a number of players drafted, and how much exposure to pro scouts do the Delta Devils get.

“From its inception until the early 1990s, MVSU had a great tradition of producing NFL players. Deacon Jones helped redefine the defensive end position in the 1960s, and the 49ers drafted some guy named Jerry Rice out of Itta Bena in 1985. Corner Ashley Ambrose was the last Delta Devil to get drafted in 1992. Thanks to the recruiting services like Rivals and Scout, those kinds of guys are no longer getting overlooked by the Mississippi States and Ole Misses of the world.”

When fans head down south to Itta Benna, MS, what is one area of that town they should see?

“Well don’t blink, or you might miss it. Itta Bena is as small-town Mississippi as it gets, with mosquitoes the size of aircraft carriers. Your best bet for food is probably Capricorn’s Internet Café, or you could treat yourself with a visit to Lusco’s for some seafood in nearby Greenwood.”

Why do you think coach Dancy was elevated to full-time head coach?

“Recruiting to Itta Bena is tough. MVSU has the smallest athletic budget of any school in Division 1 and the Delta Devils have not had any real success on the football field in more than a decade. Rather than go out and hire a more experienced coach, Athletic Director Dianthia Ford-Kee decided to go with the younger, more charismatic Dancy. They are banking on his ability to connect with recruits and raise the talent level.”

What type of offense does MVSU run?

“Dancy wants to run the football. The Delta Devils have been running an old June Jones-style run-and-shoot offense – I guess they call it the air raid now – for the past three seasons with little success. They still want to spread it out, but they’re going to try to use the run and intermediate passing game to set up play action opportunities.”

Based on your January piece from when Coach Dancy was elevated to the head coach role, how creative has coach Dancy been in selling his vision for the Delta Devils given the financial constraints of MVSU.

“The short answer is that he desperately needs to win some games so he has something to sell besides a vision. He’s had to be pretty creative this season in terms of recruiting – taking a hyper-local approach and spending a lot of time at Mississippi’s junior colleges.”

Tell us a bit more about the two preseason all conference players the Delta Devils have, wideout Quinn McElfresh and linebacker Patrick Harbin.

“Well Quinn’s a hard-worker from your neck of the woods, up in Brainerd, Minnesota. He’s not a true deep threat, but he was the guy in former coach Rick Comegy’s pass-happy offense last year because of his route-running ability and good hands. Harbin isn’t physically overwhelming, but he can really run and just seems to be in the pile at the end of every play.”

What are some of coach Dancy’s goals for his first camp as the head coach?

“He wants to change the culture and put his stamp on the program, but those things take time. In terms of camp, he just wants to identify leaders early on, find his best 22 players, then his second-best 22 players and try to find a way to put them in a position to be successful. It really is that simple right now.”

Do you think that Delta Devils bring their marching band north for this game?

“They will if it’s in the contract. And if it is, ya’ll are in for a treat.”

What are MVSU’s biggest concerns that the Fighting Hawks present as well as MVSU’s biggest strengths that the Fighting Hawks could overlook?

“Valley has really struggled to protect its quarterback over the past couple of seasons, and to disastrous results. The Delta Devils averaged around -10 rushing yards a game last season – that’s no typo – and it’s not like they’ve upgraded at all five offensive line positions since then. Pass rushers like Mason Bennett and Jaxson Turner might be able to make a living in MVSU’s backfield, and that’ll make it a long game for the Delta Devils.”

 

 

Hawks Fly to the Playoffs-What Now?

After UND’s Big Sky Championship, and a 9-2 record, what do they need to do to advance in the FCS playoffs? Here are some of my quick thoughts.

 

  1. Start Strong
    1. Many times this season UND has had to come back to finish out key victories. Often times UND has played a 30 or 45 minute game and stil come out on top. The Hawks have been better as of late but will nto be able to get away with any slow starts in the playoffs.
  2. Feed Thunder and Lightning
    1. Make sure that Brady Olivera and John Santiago get at least 15 touches each. Both  running backs have proven to be effective for UND this season and both bring different strengths to the game. Santiago will make you miss while Brady will run you over.
  3. Keep the Defense on the Sidelines
    1. If the UND offense can control the ball for at least 35 minutes I believe it has a chance to go far. The UND defense has been at its best when it has had a chance to rest and rotate players in and out. If Richmond has the ball for more than 35 minutes the path will become tougher.

UND Football- Three Thoughts

Another week , another key win for the Fighting Hawks in their quest to make the playoffs for the first time since joining the Big Sky Conference in 2012. Here are some thoughts about the tough win against Weber State and what needs to happen to win against Northern Colorado.

  1. If there was a defensive coordinator of the year award, Eric Schmidt deserves it. The Hawk defense consistently generates turnovers and high percentage scoring chances for the offense. Last week with four takeaways is another prime example of this. Schmidt and his staff have developed standouts at every level of the defense from Tank Harris on the defensive line to Cole Reyes in the secondary. Do not forget about Taj Rich as well. This UND defense will be the reason UND makes or does not make the playoffs.
  2. Kickoff coverage needs to improve and the placekicking needs to get better. Weber had multiple long returns on short kicks. If UND wants to keep doing sky kicks it should not tip its hand like the good folks at Sioux Football Insider noted they were doing during last week’s game. line up in an even formation and sky the ball. Do not stack one side because as noted, Weber routinely had extra blockers compared to UND’s actual coverage on the kickoff side.
  3. No matter who plays quarterback look for a west coast style of quick runs and short passes against Northern Colorado. If UND can run the ball and pass with some efficiency at a 60/40 clip then they will improve from the Weber State game. It will allow them to feature all three running backs and not allow UNC to stack the box then good things can happen. If UND can play strong defense and improve slightly on offense with a measure of unpredictability, then good things can happen this Saturday in Greeley.

 

 

UND Football 3 Thoughts-On to the Hornets

After a key win over Cal Poly at home, UND football heads out west to take on Sacramento State. Here are some thoughts on the game last week, and this week.

  1. Eric Schmidt needs a pay raise. The Fighting Hawks’ defensive coordinator has completely made over this defense from its Pre-Bubba (head coach Bubba Schweigert) days. UND swarmed Cal Poly all day and forced them to completely alter their gameplan. The strong play of defensive tackle Tank Harris forced Cal Poly into more passing situations. In addition, Deion Harris has played so well this season that Cal Poly exclusively focused on Torrey Hunt’s side. This allowed UND to dial up more blitzes and rush Cal Poly’s timing.
  2. Keaton Studsrud is slowly getting better in first quarters. This was his best week as UND played turnover free in the first quarter and set itself up to do well in the rest of the game. Keaton did all this with a backup center and a patchwork offensive line.
  3. Give Brady Olivera 25 or more carries every week. Give John Santiago 15-20 when he is healthy and split him out wide more. Olivera is playing the best football of his career. His run where he absolutely ran over a defensive lineman reminded me of Marshawn Lynch’s bruising run against the Saints in the 2011 NFL Playoffs. Olivera’s play is reminiscent of Lynch, strong in space with a quick burst and the ability to generate enormous yards after contact. If UND runs formations with Santiago at the wing and Olivera in the back field, defense becomes much harder for the opposition. Who do you target? The guy that can make you miss or the guy that can run you over? If Santiago plays more wideout with Olivera as a running back, this opens up a new dimension for UND. They could even run a triple option out of a non-traditional triple option formation.

Three Thoughts-UND Football

Time for another three thoughts on UND Football going forward after a tough 17-15 win in Bozeman over Montana State. UND takes on the high-motor triple option offense of Cal Poly next weekend at the Alerus Center. The Mustangs upset the number six team in the country this weekend. I will repeat myself multiple times regarding one thing. Anyone who can be in the Alerus Center needs to go and stay all 60 minutes. UND needs all the support it can get from the community.

Here are some thoughts on this past weekend and Cal Poly this weekend.

  1. UND must improve its first quarters. Every week UND has either squandered chances or been forced to play catch up from its poor first quarter showings. This past weekend it started off on the wrong foot by fumbling on its opening drive. This only cost them three points.
  2. Keaton Studsrud has to have a better showing this weekend. Every week he seems to miss three to five open wideouts. If Keaton can play a full 60 minutes UND will be able to counter the running game of Cal Poly with simple ball control. A strong offense with a diverse playbook is the best counter for the triple option. In addition, if Studsrud has a stronger game it will open up more opportunities for UND’s strong running back duo of Brady Olivera and John Santiago.
  3. UND’s defense has carried them this season. The Fighting Hawks have one of if not the best defenses in the country. Eventually the offense has to step up and mount more than one or two sustained drives throughout the game. Cal Poly is a strong enough team to keep the scenario of another South Dakota like comeback from happening again. If the offense can possess the ball for more than half of the game, UND has a much better chance of winning. This is the toughest opponent UND has played so far, UND needs all the help it can get. This is true from both the offense and the fans. If UND gets a packed Alerus Center for all 60 minutes it will help its cause. UND students once again need to show up, be loud and respectful, and stay all 60 minutes. The Fighting Hawks’ wins have not been easy but the games have been fun for all 60 minutes.

UND-USD: Game recap

The home opener for University of North Dakota football against University South Dakota was on Saturday, 9/17.  The first quarter of the game was quite intense, USD scored first with a field goal at 8:47 and UND responded eight minutes later, when Junior Cole Reyes makes an interception and runs it 33 yards for a touchdown. The second quarter was all about USD, with UND’s Travis Toivonen (Fr) completing a 11 yard pass from Keaton Studsrud (Jr) for a touch down at 9:23. USD get one field goal and three touchdowns ending the half leading UND 27-14.

At the start of the 3rd, USD comes out strong and scores another touchdown. UND ends the 3rd with Reid Taubenheim (Jr) kicking a 32-yard field goal, 34-17. The 4th was all about UND with Studsrud having a touchdown pass to John Santiago (So) , while Deion Harris (Jr) picks off and runs it in for a 33-yard touchdown return. Taubenheim also completed another field goal. Ending regulation with a tied game 34-34.

USD won the coin toss and went on the defensive, which was followed by a quick touchdown from Santiago with a 25 yard run. USD answered with a touchdown to tie the game again at 41-41. UND then forced a field goal making the score 44-41. This is when everyone’s heart stopped, the ten minutes that followed was an emotional roller coaster for both teams. UND had two touchdowns called back for being just inches short of the goal line. Finally, on the 3rd attempt, Studsrud made a 1 yard run to make the winning goal. Bring UND record to 1-2.

Sadly, many of the student body left at the end of the 2rd quarter, missing out on the amazing end of the game. My pick for MVP, would be John Santiago. A sophomore, had two touch downs, one rushing and one receiving. Santiago ran for 142 yards with an average gain of 6.4 yards a carry. Runner up, I would say is Reid Taubenheim, completing five field goals and in doing so kept us in the game.

I just want to say thank you to the staff at the Alerus Center for helping me find my way round and making sure I had everything I needed!!

Look Back and Ahead: UND Football

UND nearly upset Bowling Green this past weekend, falling short on a two point conversion with seconds left to take the lead. Here are my thoughts on the game and what UND needs to modify to win the Potato Bowl against South Dakota this weekend.

  1. The Fighting Hawks have to better react to adjustments on defense. Once Bowling Green adjusted for the exotic blitzes UND ran, the Hawks could not generate as much pressure. The defense played a great game for the most part. One concern for me is the big plays. Bowling Green scored the majority of its touchdowns on big plays like their long passes. If UND can adjust its blitzes and run one extra defender in the secondary it should be fine. The Fighting Hawks have a good enough run defense to not need extra blitzes in running situations. In addition, the defense does not need to stack the box to succeed. It is good enough to afford the luxury of having an extra defensive back more often.
  2. The offense improved from the Stony Brook game. One area it needs to improve on more is making simple throws in the first half. Keaton Studsrud has looked out of sorts these first two first halves this season. He needs to get off to a better start in the Potato Bowl. The offense cannot have too many three and outs in the first quarter. The poor play of the offense directly contributed to UND having to come from behind against Bowling Green.
  3. Fans need to show up and stay. If the Alerus is full and rocking all game UND has a better chance of winning. Students (writing this as an alum who missed less than five games in four years), please please please do not leave this game at half time! Show up, be loud, be respectful! UND needs its student section to be full all game. The best moment for me at UND games even during the Mussman era was the players coming over and thanking the students left for coming and staying. The atmosphere at the Alerus center is unique. Do not complain about how bad the football team is when the team is exciting.That excuse has not been valid since since the coaching change. Our team plays a strong physical game and has at least a top five running back in the FCS in John Santiago. In the past, our defense was the biggest issue. Now our defense is winning us games and keeping us in most of them. Show up, be loud, and have fun this weekend. Students get free tickets and transportation, UND needs you, the team needs you, and the town of Grand Forks needs you to show up this weekend. It should be a great game against South Dakota as UND looks to get back to winning on the way to a FCS playoff birth.