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.

 

 

 

Carson Wentz- Look Ahead

Carson Wentz, a Bismarck native and a North Dakota State University graduate was picked second overall to the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2016 NFL draft. If you’re from North Dakota, then you need no introduction to Wentz. For those less familiar, he led NDSU to two out of the five consecutive FCS championships than NDSU currently holds. In his senior year he started in seven games and has a completion rate of 62.5% for 1,651 yards.  He also has 17 touchdowns with only four interceptions, along with six touchdowns for himself. Wentz was named to the College Sports Information Directors Association All-American squad for two consecutive years.

From an analytical standpoint, Wentz’s greatest strength comes from how he deals under pressure in the pocket. He is smart, and he knows when to run the ball and when to throw it. When he throws, it is high and accurate. His weakness comes from having issues with his footwork in the pocket and from locking on to the receiver that he is intending to pass to, which gives more time for defense to get to that intended player.

Coming from an FCS school, it is surprising to many that he was picked so highly.  During the first weeks of practice, it is starting to become evident that Wentz has a lot of growing to do before he will be ready to make his debut onto the NHL field. Head Coach Doug Pederson noticed that he has a wobble to the ball at times, but NDSU has seen this from him before, and a little wobble has never stopped Wentz in the past. Carson told reports this week that timing and accuracy are more important than how pretty the ball looks at the end of the day, as all rookies need to have time to get used to playing on a different level of playing. I am not saying that Wentz could not start this year and perform well if it was needed, but I do think that he needs some more time to mature.

 

 

http://www.nfl.com/draft/2016/profiles/carson-wentz?id=2555259