(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.