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 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.

 

 

 

UND Sweeps Idaho Keyed by a Trio of Double-Digit Kill Evenings

(Photo credit to Joel Helbling for UNDSports.com)

In front of a crowd of 1,333 fans anxious to see the first home match at the Betty Englestad Sioux Center in almost three weeks, the Fighting Hawks (18-2 2-1) swept (25-22, 25-18, 25-21) the Idaho Vandals (7-7, 2-1) in their Big Sky home opener. This win gave the Fighting Hawks their 16th straight home win at the Betty.

The Fighting Hawks persevered through an eight error first set with 20 kills to put the Vandals on their heels early. As the match went on, the Fighting Hawks were able to slowly control their attack errors and the game.

In the second set, the Fighting Hawks hit .500 as they were able to put the Vandals down 25-18 going into halftime. This allowed the team the chance to avoid going to four sets. Given that UND has played 20 matches, maintaining their stamina is becoming increasingly important. Coach Pryor noted the issues with fatigue, and the importance of closing Idaho out in three sets.

Seniors Faith Dooley, Tamera Merseli, and sophomore Ashley Brueggeman each (13,12,and 10) notched double digit kills on the evening.

The Wheatland, ND native was the most efficient Hawk on the offensive side of the ball  on the evening. She notched her 12 kills on 19 swings with zero attack errors. She hit .632 on the night and was a constant force for Head Coach Mark Pryor’s team throughout the match. Pryor noted how much Faith has improved over her time at UND, as she has put herself just outside the top five of UND’s career kills list.

Tamera Merseli had her ninth double-double of the season this evening with 14 kills and 10 digs. The Belgrade,Serbia native had a keen eye for placing the ball as she caught Idaho’s defenders off guard with well placed kills.

The Fighting Hawks are back in action this Saturday at the Betty against Eastern Washington. The match is scheduled for 11 AM.