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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

UND Comes Up Short Against Idaho State 25-19: Three Thoughts

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons-FightingHawks.com)

Yesterday for the combined Potato Bowl and Homecoming game, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks looked good in the first quarter. The offense went a perfect five-for-five on third downs. The defense combined with a roaring crowd kept the Bengals of Idaho State out of the end zone. Two drives resulted in touchdowns, and the defense held the Bengals to two field goals. That was the best quarter of the game for UND. From then on, the game completely changed as UND was only able to convert one third down on their last ten attempts. Here are some thoughts regarding yesterday.

The Good 

Noah Wanzek had another nice game for UND. The Fighting Hawks went to him five times for 109 yards including a nice touchdown in the second quarter. He is building a nice campaign for UND this season and it is good to see him getting these quality looks. In addition, the three UND running backs all had some contribution with John Santiago leading the way on the ground with 111 rushing yards and a touchdown. Brady Oliveira ran over multiple Bengals on his way to an 87 yard ground game.

On defense, especially early, UND was able to get home and generated three sacks on the day. UND’s defensive line and ability to get home without blitzing has and will continue to help them as the year goes forward.

What to Improve This Week

Regarding things to build on, the Fighting Hawks have to work on defending the intermediate pass. When Idaho State head coach Rob Phenicie noted the big day they expected their slot wideout, Michael Dean, to have before the game that made me wonder what teams are seeing in the short and intermediate passing game to give future opponents that impression. He finished the day as the leading wide receiver for either side with nine catches for 130 yards. Dean had the one long play up top for 49 yards, beyond that most of his and the rest of the Bengals’ passing game utilized intermediate plays to challenge the Fighting Hawks.

UND played superb defense in three quarters against arguably one of  the best passing teams in the country, Sam Houston State, on the road last week. What was a point of improvement from that game was either missed tackles in short and intermediate routes that turned into bigger gains, like the game winner to Mitch Guller yesterday. Absent missed tackles, opponents are taking advantage of UND by setting up systems to get the ball out quick to minimize pressure, and utilizing their fastest lateral wide receivers to run a sort of west-coast type offense to beat them.

Absent the intermediate game turning into big plays, UND had a bad game against the run yesterday. It is rare to see such a stout run defense like UND give up 273 yards on the ground to anyone at this level. Idaho State averaged 5.9 yards a carry utilizing quick run-pass-option plays. Ty Flanagan and James Madison were able to find gaps up the middle for a team forced to defend the perimeter routes and limit big plays up top. For the most part, UND defended the deep ball well, but the intermediate and underneath plays often were what did them in from the second quarter onward.

Finally, give credit to Idaho State Quarterback Tanner Guller. He did not give up on more than one play that should have been sacks for UND. He is tough to bring down, and turned multiple negative plays into short gainers for the Bengals.

What Now for UND?

Now UND has to get ready for Northern Colorado next weekend. The Fighting Hawks travel to take on a Bears team that is 0-4 to start the season. Looking a bit more into their record, they had a close call against upstart McNeese State to open things up, losing 17-14.

Regardless of the opponent, UND has a formula that they have shown can keep them competitive with anyone. This team still has a stout run defense and front line that will keep them in every game. They have a quarterback in Nate Ketteringham that can make any throw presented to him. Finally, they have a superb backfield which can run through or past any team that sets up superb play-action opportunities throughout every game.

If UND can contain teams that like to spread the ball around and force teams to either run through them or throw over them then the rest of the year could look more like the first quarter yesterday, not the last three.

 

UND-Idaho State: Three Things

Today, UND takes on Idaho State in the Homecoming and Potato Bowl combined game here at the Alerus Center. Here are some thoughts on today for both teams, this should be a good test for the Fighting Hawks to see where they are a week after upsetting a superb Sam Houston State team on the road. For Idaho State, this will be their Big Sky opener and their first gauge of where they stand in the conference. While UND is an independent, this game matters a lot to a Bengals team who under second year coach Rob Phenicie look to make it to the top of the Big Sky.

Guarding the Gullers 

Junior quarterback Tanner Guller and his brother, junior wide reciever Mitch lead the way for the Bengals on offense. Scheme wise, his ability to create big plays will go a long way to determining the outcome of the game today. Mitch is a big play wideout for the Bengals with proven ability to create big plays. Coming into this game, 26 of his 82 catches have gone for more than 20 yards. How UND defends the short and intermediate routes and its ability to make first tackles will go a long way to determining the outcome of this one.

Delivering in the Diamond

UND’s utilization of all three running backs this season at once has been something fun to watch. John Santiago, James Johanneson, and Brady Oliveira have looked superb when together. This formation, combined with increased utilization of its tight ends and different looks have given the offense a fresh flavor this season. This look gives UND a lot more ways to utilize its running game, and has created a lot more chances for the occasional play action pass to stretch the defense.

Can the Jets Fly?

UND has a few receivers (jets) capable of breakthrough speed. Look for Izzy Adeoti’s reps and involvement to keep going up as his speed and difference-making ability becomes more evident each week. In addition, Cam McKinney provides a nice compliment to the possession wideouts that get the start for UND today. These two wideouts will be called on more as the year goes to make some different plays and open up things for their running backs.

Look for more today on this key game for both sides as UND faces all Big Sky Schools for the rest of the regular season.

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.