Week 12 Preview – Northern Colorado Bears

The Game Vitals

Game Time
 - 1:00 CT

Opponent - Northern Colorado at Nottingham Field, Greeley, CO

Game Notes - UND

TV - None

Online Streaming - Big Sky TV   

Spread - Northern Colorado -4   O/U 39.5


Northern Colorado Breakdown (3-7 record)

– Offense = Spread-Pistol/Gun, 3 WR’s.

– Defense = 4-3

– Last Meeting:  2013 – UND beat Northern Colorado 24-21 in Grand Forks.

The Northern Colorado Bears come into this game off a loss to Weber State in Ogden by a score of 34-21.  UNC has also beaten Northern Arizona, another similarity to UND.  Sitting at 3-7, UNC has been in a few games this year but haven’t been able to finish them off.

Offensively, the Bears run the typical Big Sky spread offense with the QB in shotgun/pistol most of the time.  They are averaging 20 pts/game and 342 yards on offense, good for 12th in the Big Sky.  UND is 13th in scoring offense and total offense.  UNC only averages 117 yards/game on the ground with the remaining 225 coming through the air.  They are not a dynamic offense by any means but try to stay alive by moving the sticks and then taking their shots when available.

QB #15 Sean Rubalcaba has been at the helm most of the season for the Bears.  The 6’2″-190 sophomore is 142-207 for 1,724 yards and 10 TDs.  Rubalcaba is also a threat to run the ball in UNC’s spread offense as he has run for 323 yards and 3 TD’s this season.

The guy UND needs to worry about on Saturday is WR #3 Dimitri Stimphil.  Stimphil, 5’10″-180, has 51 receptions for 713 yards and 5 TD’s.  He is a very quick, threat to score type of receiver every time he touches the ball.  UND best watch how UNC is aligning him as he can create major mismatches if lined up across from safeties.

The UNC defense has been an average unit this season, averaging 30 pts/game allowed.  What they are good at is intercepting the ball.  They have 17 interceptions on the year, which is good for 4th nationally.  Due to those INT’s, UNC is an impressive +10 in turnover margin.  On the flip side, UND is -4 on the season.  Thankfully, UND is not a passing team so that interception ability should not a big factor on Saturday.

North Dakota (4-7) Keys to the Game

  1. UND Defensive Front Seven – GATA.  UNC has given up an unbelievable 45 sacks this year.  Yes, 45.  UND’s defense is second in the Big Sky with 30 sacks.  Ratchet up the pressure once again this week and get 5-7 sacks.  The word is NG Jordan Hinojosa and possibly CB Chris Carter are going to be back this week.  That will be a big boost to UND’s defense.
  2. Give it Give it Give it to Garman.  Jer Garman is on fire at RB for UND, coming off a 235 yard performance vs. NAU.  He has shown great vision and great speed and is peaking at the right time of the year.  UNC is 11th in the Big Sky in rushing defense.  Run the ball.  Alot.
  3. We called for UND’s special teams/defense to setup the offense with a short field and they responded last week.  Do it again, please.  The offense flourished last week partly due to not having to drive 80 yards every possession.

UND needs to build off last week’s win over NAU and at the same time get their first road win of the season.  UND has not looked good on the road this year.  In fact, they have looked terrible at times.  Winning this game on the road can springboard UND into winter workouts/recruiting on a high note and get them to a 5-7 record on the season.

The Prediction

North Dakota 22

Northern Colorado 20



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A “Senior Day” Win for UND

To say UND “needed” that win last weekend over #22 Northern Arizona is debatable.  They have been out of the playoff discussion for week’s now and these last games were all being played for pride and the senior’s on the team.  However, now that they have won the game it seems like they did “need” that one as the season winds down.

This team is still a work in progress.  The coaches are still trying to figure out exactly what they got at each position because each game presents different scenario’s.  To see how kid’s can bounce back game to game and react to adversity is a season-long evaluation.  For UND to comeback after losing to the two worst teams in the Big Sky (SUU & Weber State) and getting thrashed by EWU out in Cheney showed a ton of pride, not only in themselves but the program.

We have to remember that NAU had everything to play for on Saturday.  Their playoff lives were on the line and if they had won they were probably in the playoffs with 8 wins.  NAU had beaten Cal-Poly and Eastern Washington in previous weeks and were playing fairly good ball.

Instead, UND came out and manhandled them at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.  The UND offensive line played it’s best game of the year, by far.  They helped churn out 297 rushing yards, with senior Jer Garman picking up a whopping 235 of those.  Can’t think of a better way for ‘senior day’ to go for the running back from Marion, IA.

On the flip side, an issue we addressed last week popped up again vs. NAU.  The UND secondary got picked on pretty good in the second half once again this week.  The run defense was tough once again, only allowing 68 yards on 29 attempts.  The problem was that NAU was allowed to throw for 374 yards.  Honestly, the secondary looks fatigued to me.  They have no depth, which forces guys like Alex Tillman, Chris Brown, and Cole Reyes to play every single play, every game.  That might not sound abnormal but there are games where they have been on the field 75+ plays.  That will wear you down over a 12 game season.  Factor in that some of the defensive players are also on special teams.

3rd and Long defense was an issue Saturday.  NAU was able to get first down’s on the following down/distances:

  • 3rd and 8 — 3rd and 10 — 3rd and 10 — 3rd and 10 — 3rd and 20 — 3rd and 18
It does show how great the UND defense was on first and second down vs. NAU, though.  The UND front seven played another solid game, collecting 6 more sacks to give them 30 on the season.  They also had 8 TFL’s.  
Freshman kicker Reid Taubenheim had an outstanding game for UND.  Besides kicking the game winner (35) with only 9 seconds left on the clock, Taubenheim also hit two other field goals (21, 32) to go 3-3 on the day.  For the season Taubenheim is 12 for 16 and hasn’t missed a FG in five weeks.  He has improved greatly as the year has gone on and has also kicked in tight situations several times, which will serve him well in the future.  


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Week 11 Preview – #22 Northern Arizona Lumberjacks

The Game Vitals

Game Time
 - 12:05 CT

Opponent - Northern Arizona at The Alerus Center – Grand Forks, ND

Game Notes - UND

TV - Midco Sports Network

Online Streaming - Big Sky TV                                                                                         Spread - Northern Arizona -7.5   O/U 41

Northern Arizona Breakdown (7-3 record)

– Offense = Pro-Style, 3 WR’s and TE.

– Defense = 4-3

– Last Meeting:  2013 – Northern Arizona beat UND 48-27 in Flagstaff, AZ.

After a somewhat shocking early season loss on the road to MVFC bottom-feeder South Dakota, the Lumberjacks have turned around their season and are sitting real well as we head into the FCS playoffs.  The Jacks have rebounded to beat then #2 Eastern Washington along with Cal-Poly before that.  They only have two games left vs. UND (3-7) and Southern Utah (2-8) and will be favored to win next week as well.  The Jacks have had the benefit of an extremely easy schedule, however, not having to play Montana, Montana State, or Idaho State this season.

Offensively, the Jacks are averaging 27 pts/game and employ a ball-control, pro-style offense.  They do not do anything flashy but try to run the ball out of 3 receiver sets and control the tempo through a safe passing game.  They are averaging 423 yards per game total offense with 160 of that coming via the ground game.  They have a time of possession advantage of 33-27 this season.

QB #11 Jordan Perry has taken over the control of the Jacks offense.  He is a converted wide receiver and is the third QB that NAU has used this season.  Perry is a big kid at 6’3-210 and has decent arm strength and very accurate.  In abbreviated duty, Perry is 5-72 for 535 yards and 5 TD’s.  He is also a threat to run the ball if pressured.

RB #6 Casey Jahn is the workhorse of the NAU offense.  Jahn has 758 yards and 4 TD’s rushing this season.  He is a compact, tough nosed runner who will wear you down if NAU gets the lead.

The big play threat in the passing game is WR Ifi Umodu.  Umodu has 38 receptions for 575 yards and 4 TD’s.  At 6’3″, he will be a constant mismatch for the much smaller UND secondary.

North Dakota (3-7) Keys to the Game

  1. Pass Defense.  UND hasn’t had much problem stopping the run this year as we pointed out in our post on Tuesday.  We think they will be able to shut down NAU, also.  The problem has been pass defense and NAU will be bringing some very good skill guys to the Alerus Center on Saturday.  The UND secondary needs to re-find it’s mojo and tighten up on these Jacks receivers.  Timely breakups on third down and when NAU takes their shots deep will be a key to the game.
  2. The NAU secondary is very good from what we have seen and heard.  UND must, once again, get the running game on track early with Jer Garman.  QB Keaton Studsrud will not have many open windows in this game as UND is just too depleted at WR to consistently move the ball down the field via the passing game.
  3. As dumb as this sounds, UND’s special teams and/or defense need to score a TD or setup the offense with a short field.  When UND won games earlier this year it was because the defense or ST’s scored a TD and turned the game around.  That hasn’t happened in the last 4 weeks and they are 1-3 in those games.

Northern Arizona has a lot to play for this weekend as a FCS playoff bid is on the line.  They will come in on an emotional high and UND needs to match that intensity to stay in this one.  NAU is a consistent, ball-control team that is playing at a high level right now.  UND will definitely need all three phases to stay in this one.

The Prediction

Northern Arizona 24

North Dakota 13



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Post WSU Thoughts

After UND’s 24-12 loss on Saturday to previously winless Weber State, one thing is quite apparent and that is the UND defense has started to regress just a bit on the year.  The same defense that has kept UND in game’s earlier this season has started to show signs of wear, particularly on the backend vs. the pass.  At this point of the season we are not as concerned with the offense based on the fact they have lost pretty much every playmaker they had and were forced to pull the redshirt off a true freshman who was running the scout team (Studsrud).

In the last three games, all losses, UND’s opponents (SUU, EWU, SWU) have rushed for a total of 256 yards on 119 carries.  That is a paltry 2.15 yards per carry.  The run defense has been there each and every game but when looking at the pass defense it tells a different story.

In the last three games UND’s opponents have thrown for 320, 339, and 235 yards (SUU, EWU, WSU) on only 68 attempts.  That is an average of 13.1 yards per completion.  There is the problem.  9 of those completions were for TD’s.

It seems to us as if the secondary has not been as solid as they were in the first half of the season.  Some of that has to do with opponents as EWU and SUU both have pretty good receiving corps.  But, some of the plays are the defensive backs getting beat with poor fundamentals or a combination of things.  The defense may be starting to wear down after a season of constantly coming onto the field, having to make huge stops after a sudden change, etc.  The TFL’s and Sacks have been there consistently when looking at the stats but the completion rate and yardage have risen dramatically, as well.

There are only two games left in the season, this weekend vs Northern Arizona and next weekend out at Northern Colorado.  How a team finishes the season always plays big into how they head into winter workouts and spring football.



Week 10 Preview – Weber State Wildcats

The Game Vitals

Game Time
 - 12:05 CT

Opponent - Weber State at The Alerus Center – Grand Forks, ND

Game Notes - UND

TV - Midco Sports Network

Online Streaming - Big Sky TV                                                                                         

Spread - North Dakota -3.5   O/U 39


Weber State Breakdown (0-9 record)

– Offense = Pistol, Spread, 3 receivers & TE

– Defense = 4-3

– Last Meeting:  First ever meeting between UND and WSU.

Weber State is having a tough go of it in Coach Jay Hill’s first year at the helm of the Wildcats.  They are 0-9, but technically have been in every game they have played this year, minus a 45-14 loss to Arizona State.  Last week vs. Northern Arizona they were up 22-0 in the first quarter, only to let NAU score 22 unanswered in the second quarter and eventually lose 29-22.

Offensively, the Wildcats employ a pistol, spread attack very similar to Portland State or Montana State.  They do a lot of zone-read handoff and will run the jet sweep off of it, also.  The offense is not overly complex but is effective.  On the year the Wildcats are averaging 20 pts/game and around 380 total yards of offense per game, with 133 of that coming via the ground game.

QB #10 Jadrian Clark has taken over the controls for the Wildcats.  Clark is a dual-threat type of QB, liking to keep the read-handoff just as much as giving it.  He is not a polished passer by any means but will take shots deep when they are given.  On the year Clark is 18-42 for 329 yards.  Clark has ran for 149 yards and 2 TD’s.

The big-play threat for Weber State is WR #1 Shaydon Kehano.  The 5’11″senior is having a huge 2014 season with 66 catches for 776 yards and 6 TD’s.  He is the guy that Clark will look to once they feel they have established the running game.

North Dakota (3-6) Keys to the Game

  1. Get after the football.  Weber State is last in the Big Sky Conference in turnover margin at -14.  They have fumbled the ball away 11 times this year.  Get after them and create some turnovers to give your offense some short fields.
  2. Give true freshman QB Keaton Studsrud some time to get comfortable.  The first-game jitters are out of the way.  Now it’s time for the offense to rally around Studsrud.  Get the ground game going vs. the second worst run defense in the league.  It’s not going to be easy because every team left on the schedule is going to dare UND to throw the ball.
  3. Play defense the way they played during week’s 3-7.  Ratchet up the pressure early and get the crowd into it.  By slowing down the run UND can force WSU to pass more than they want to.

Weber State is 0-9 on the season but have lost their Big Sky games by an average margin of 8 pts.  This game will be a dogfight to the very end.  Once again, it’s going to take a total team effort to win this Saturday.  A defensive score or punt return for TD – both of those have happened this year and allowed UND to win or gave them a chance to win.

The Prediction

North Dakota  18

Weber State  16



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The QB Situation and More

Even though UND sits at 3-6 heading into their Week 10 game vs. Weber State, there is plenty to play for when it comes to the players themselves.  There are still many positions on this team that have not been solidified in 2014 and will be up for grabs come Spring Ball 2015.  One of those positions is quarterback.

QB Keaton Studsrud, the true freshman who had his redshirt pulled last week, will be the starter for the rest of the 2014 season.  We believe they pulled his redshirt due to the fact that QB Ryan Bartels shoulder injury will not heal up in time to play in these final three games.  Bartels took over for starting QB Joe Mollberg, who ruptured his achilles tendon vs. Southern Utah two week ago.  To say this has been a trying time up in Grand Forks would be an understatement.

This is a huge opportunity for Studsrud to establish himself as a contender for the starting QB spot in 2015.  Obviously, spring ball will be a factor too but for Studsrud to have actual game tape on file will be an advantage for him, good or bad.  OC Paul Rudolph will know what he has when it comes to mobility, arm strength, decision-making, huddle-command, etc.

We look for UND to keep the game plan very, very vanilla.  Everyone must remember that Studsrud ran the UND scout team for the first nine weeks of the season.  He probably knows 10-20 plays really well and is somewhat versed in the others.  Another factor that could hurt Studsrud is the fact that the coaches will more than likely not use his speed/athleticism through QB truck plays/boots due to the fact he is one of two QB’s left on the roster (Jake Hanson being the other).  If Studsrud gets hurt UND will be down to a walk-on and then probably any WR who has ever taken a snap in their life.

It is on the UND offensive line to step up and say, ‘we need to keep this kid upright the rest of the year’.  One way to do that is by running the ball.  The UND run game has been decent lately with senior Jer Garman running very well.   Continue to run the ball and let Studsrud throw short to intermediate routes to try and move the sticks.  Repeat.

The rumor as of yesterday is that two wide receivers have quit the team.  We have not seen any confirmation on this but speculation via twitter and other sources is that junior Casey Young and true freshman Dev Ferguson have both quit.  Young was buried on the depth chart and never could break through to earn consistentplaying time.  He had 3 catches for 30 yards in 2014.  Young played sparingly the last couple games due to Ferguson’s and RJ McGill’s injuries but obviously didn’t like something about the situation.  Ferguson played a lot of snaps this season for UND but was constantly hurt and missed multiple games, including last week vs. EWU.  To this point, Ferguson had 12 catches for 275 yards and 1 TD.  Once again, we have not seen any form of verification on this.

As we said in in the spring, the defections from the team were not going to end after spring ball.  UND lost 10+ players last winter after the coaching change.  They lost a handful more after spring ball.  They lost a few this fall during/after camp.  They will lose more after the season.  Most of these kids were not recruited by the current staff and may not like the new regime, and vice versa.

This biggest thing UND needs right now is players that want to be construction workers and build something that they can leave as their legacy at UND.  They don’t need talent that wants to pick and choose their times to work hard and care about the program.  They got a decent base of hard-working players to build off of but need a lot more of them before they get the ship steered in the right direction.  It’s going to be a long process and the fans need to realize it.  Enjoy the victories and look for things that are improving or not improving.  Things will get better, we know that, but it’s going to take time.

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Week 9 Preview – #6 Eastern Washington Eagles

The Game Vitals

Game Time
 - 4:05 CT

Opponent - Eastern Washington at Roos Field in Cheney, WA

Game Notes - UND

TV - None

Online Streaming - Big Sky TV                                                                                         

Spread - Eastern Washington -24   O/U 60


Eastern Washington Breakdown (7-2 record)

– Offense = Shotgun-Pistol, Spread, 3-4 receivers, 1 running back

– Defense = 4-3

– Last Meeting:  2013 – EWU won 35-14 in Grand Forks

Eastern Washington is coming off a devastating, last second loss to Northern Arizona.  They let NAU drive down the field in only three plays and score a TD to win the game 28-27 to hand EWU their first FCS loss of the season.  They are still ranked #6 in the country but are not nearly the same team without Vernon Adams at QB.  That ranking is based on Adams playing, which he will not be this weekend.

Offensively, the Eagles are a fairly balanced offense operating out of a shotgun/1 RB setup.  They employ 3-4 receivers at all times and do use a TE at times.  EWU is averaging an impressive 43 pts/game and 550 yards of total offense.  325 yards of that is through the air.  This is a high-octane no-huddle offense that will try to score as quickly as possible by spreading teams out and playing sideline to sideline.  They run alot of flare passes to the RB’s and sweep handoff’s to get their playmakers in one-on-one situations.

With Adams out, QB Jordan West has taken over and done a decent job at the controls but they are not nearly has dynamic as they were.  West is a taller QB at 6’4″ and acts much more like a pocket QB than Adams.  He will take off running but only a few times per game.  West is 62-105 for 758 and 7 TD’s and 1 INT in his three games at starting QB for the Eagles.

The running backs and wide receivers for the Eagles are electric, to say the least.  They will be the best group that UND has faced this year and it’s not even close.  RB #22 Quincy Forte has returned from injury and is the home-run hitter for the Eagles.  He has 629 yards and 5 TD’s thus far on 2014.  EWU will try and get him the ball going wide via handoff or swing pass and let him race the defense to the sideline, looking for a crease to develop.  In the passing game, the Eagles have two outstanding wide receivers in #10 Cooper Kupp  and #11 Kendrick Bourne.  They have combined for 96 receptions and 1,385 yards and 19 TDs.  Thoso two go 6’2″ and 6’3″, respectively, giving defenses trouble not only with their above-average speed but size also.

Defensively, EWU plays a 4-3 defense.  They are giving up 33 pts/game on the season and are not an overly dominant group by any means.  From what we have seen they can be run on, which UND will obviously try to do again this week.  Their defense is led by All-Big Sky LB #39 Ronnie Hamlin, who is having another great season for the Eagles.  #91 Samson Ebukam is another disruptive force on the defensive line with 6 sacks and 9 TFLs.

North Dakota (3-5) Keys to the Game

  1. The UND defense needs to get back in the saddle this week and lead the effort.  This unit played poorly last week at SUU and has a chance to redeem itself this week vs. a better offense.  Too many gaps were left unfilled and tackles missed last week.  EWU is going to spread them out and make them tackle one-on-one.  Will they be up to the challenge this week?  This EWU is very similar to Montana State’s offense and UND had decent success vs. the Bobcats, especially on the ground.
  2. We are starting to get the feeling that true freshman QB Keaton Studsrud is going to travel on the trip and be prepared to play, if needed.  With Ryan Bartels still dinged up from last week’s SUU game, UND has had to prepare a backup plan just in case.  Nobody will know who is really starting until warmups on Saturday.  If Studsrud does play, look for an extremely simple game plan, being he has ran the scout team all season and has had limited exposure to the offense.
  3. With the QB situation up in the air, UND needs to run the clock offensively.  Run the ball, hit short-intermediate routes, run the ball, and then do it again.  We believe that UND will take their shots deep with Dev Ferguson as they have in the past but they need that clock to run while they got the ball when facing a high-octane offense like EWU.

This is another tough road game for UND.  They have not won a game away from the Alerus Center this season.  With the QB situation as it is this one will be another game where a lot of things need to go right for UND.  There is something about that red turf and when EWU gets back home they are a completely different team.

The Prediction

Eastern Washington  28

North Dakota  16



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UND vs. SUU Game Thoughts

UND went out to Southern Utah this past weekend and lost 35-17 in a game where they struggled to get much of anything going, consistently that is.  SUU came in to the game 1-7 but played pretty well, not committing any turnovers and making a bunch of big plays on offense.  We pointed to their rough schedule thus far in 2014, but didn’t think it was that big of a deal, that they just were not that good of a team.  Well, they looked better than we thought on Saturday.

  • UND actually outgained the T-Birds 431-415 in total yardage.  That number is deceiving, however, given how SUU had multiple short field to work with.
  • The UND defense did not play with it’s same level of intensity on Saturday.  Maybe it was the bye week hangover or something else but they just didn’t have it.  SUU converted three different 3rd down and 10+ by running the ball.  That hasn’t happened all year and probably won’t again.  That tells us things were a bit off and guys were probably voiding their lanes.
  • The fake punt on Saturday was a ballzy call and I realize what Coach Schweigert was trying to do but it ended up backfiring as SUU was setup at UND’s 29.  Tough call.  Give him credit for trying to keep the drive going and get his offense in a rhythm.  It was close but came up just short.
  • Way too many drops from the wide receivers on Saturday.  There were at least five balls that were blatantly dropped.  On the flip side, freshman Josh Seibel continues his hot play at wide receiver.  Seibel caught 9 balls for 96 yards on Saturday.  Right now, he is their best receiver by far.
  • QB Joe Mollberg exited the game with what we now know is a season-ending achilles injury.  Mollberg has been off and on all year but seemed to be settling in a bit as of late, even though he did get knocked out of the Portland State game also.  QB Ryan Bartels came in and performed well again for the second straight week.  Bartels ended the game 23-44 for 297 yards and 0 TD’s with 2 INT’s.
  • Bartels will be taking over the QB duties now full-time and we assume sophomore Jake Hanson will be the backup.  The absolute last resort should be pulling the redshirt on Keaton Studsrud.  There are only four games left in the season.
  • UND has now lost it’s starting QB, starting RB (Simmons), best wide receiver (McGill), and best receiving tight end (Ruhe).  The weapons are slowing disappearing for an offense that has been struggling most of the year as it is.
  • SUU QB Ammon Olsen had a real good game.  The BYU transfer looked sharp going an astounding 23-25 for 320 yards and 4 TD’s.  The wind did not affect his play much at all and showed outstanding arm strength and accuracy.
  • Thing sure as heck don’t get easier this week.  UND has to head to Cheyney, WA to take on a mad dog in EWU.  They just got upset by NAU down in Flagstaff and are not going to be in the mood to drop another one.  Looks like both UND and EWU got their hiccup game out of the way last week.
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Week 8 Preview – Southern Utah Thunderbirds

The Game Vitals

Game Time
 - 2:05 CT

Opponent - Southern Utah at Eccles Coliseum in Cedar City, UT

Game Notes - UND

TV - None

Online Streaming - Big Sky TV                                                                                         

Spread - Southern Utah -5   O/U 43


Southern Utah Breakdown (1-7 record)

– Offense = Shotgun, Spread, 3-4 receivers, 1 running back

– Defense = 4-3 or 3-4

– Last Meeting:  2012 – UND won 33-29 in Grand Forks

The T-Birds are coming off a blowout 56-28 loss up in Pocatello, ID to the Bengals of Idaho State.  They hung around in the first half but the Bengals turned it on in the second half and ran away with it.  SUU has played a hellacious schedule in 2014 and we are not surprised that they are currently 1-7.  The combined record of their FCS opponents is 26-11 and three of them (SDSU, SLU, EWU) are going to be playoff teams.  Oh, and they played two FBS schools (Fresno State & Nevada).

Offensively, the Vikings are a passing offense operating out of a shotgun/1 RB setup.  They employ 3-4 receivers at all times and will motion the back out for a 5th.  SUU is averaging 23 pts/game on the season and an impressive 310 yds/game passing.  They do average 106 yards per game rushing but have struggled to get their running game going in many of their games this season.

The offense is led by QB #2 Ammon Olsen.  On the year he is 137-230 for 1,808 yards and 13 TDs vs. 8 Ints.  The BYU transfer had decent mobility and will run if pressured but seems to prefer to find a receiver if at all possible.  His arm strength appears to be alright and he has pretty good accuracy on his ball.  He has gotten pressured a ton this year and like most QB’s, gets fairly inaccurate during those times.

WR #6 Chris Robinson is the T-Birds leading receiver with 38 receptions for 636 yards and 5 TD’s.  The 5’8″ speedster is used all over the field in a variety of sets and motions and UND best keep track of his location on the field this week.  WR #3 Justin Brown has 33 receptions for 570 yards and 3 TD’s this year and is the bigger receiver of the two at 6’2″.  Olsen does not discriminate in the passing game as 8 different players have more than 10 receptions on the year.

Defensively, Southern Utah is hard to get a handle on.  They play a 3-4 defense much of the time but then sometimes they appeared to be in a 4-3 look for their base defense.  The defense is led by All-Big Sky DE #53 James Cowser, who is having another huge season for the T-Birds.  Cowser has an unbelievable 18.5 TFL’s and 9.5 sacks in 2014.  The guy is a beast of the edge and UND will definitely need to chip with a RB or double with a TE on play-action passes.  The strength of the T-Birds defense appears to be there defensive line with the weakness being the secondary.  On the year SUU is giving up 40 pts/game and 550 yards/game of offense.

North Dakota (3-4) Keys to the Game

  1. UND Offense – Run the Ball (like everyone else has been able to do).  Run the ball right at Cowser and slow him down that way, getting him out of rush mode.  If UND rushes for +125 yards they win the game.
  2. UND Defense – tackle the receiver and make them snap it again.  Like most passing offenses, they don’t want 10-12 play drives.  They want a few dink-and-dunks and then hit the big one.  Knock down or tackle the big one and make them do it over… and over again.  Mistakes will come.  UND is a bit undersized at corner with Chris Brown and Chris Carter being around 5’9″-those two need to use their technique and get into the bigger SUU receivers.
  3. UND Front Seven – have your best pass rushing day yet.  The SUU offensive line is an average unit, having given up 25 sacks already this season.  UND has pressured the heck out of most every team they faced and need to do it again this week.  Olsen will be standing back there 50+ times on Saturday.

Time to even up the record at 4-4.  SUU is down this year, obviously, but have played a very tough schedule so it’s tough to make an all-encompassing assessment of them.  Coming off a bye, UND needs to regroup for the second half and it begins on Saturday out in beautiful Cedar City, Utah.

The Prediction

North Dakota  21

Southern Utah  13



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First Half Review and Thoughts

Thought we would hammer you with stats, thoughts, & opinions now that UND is done with their bye week and moving on to the second half of the 2014 season.

Here is UND’s Big Sky Conference statistical ranking through 7 total games (13 teams):

  • UND Offense = 13th – 13.7 pts/game.
  • UND Defense = 2nd – 22.7 pts/game.
  • UND Total Offense = 13th – 231.3 yds/game
  • UND Total Defense = 2nd – 334.6 yds/game
  • UND Rushing Offense = 13th – 78.1 yds/game
  • UND Rushing Defense = 1st – 126.9 yds/game
  • UND Passing Offense = 12th – 153.1 yds/game
  • UND Passing Defense = 4th – 207.7 yds/game
  • Turnover Margin = 0.00.  12 giveways and 12 takeaways.
So when looking at the stats, UND’s offense is dead last in most categories and UND’s defense is 1st or 2nd in most categories.  Hence, the 3-4 record.  Not completely surprised by the offense struggling but the defense has been a total shocker to us.  They have done a 180 since last season in pretty much all areas, specifically, tackling and gap integrity.
Last season, the UND defense recorded 14 sacks in 11 games.  This season through 7 games the UND defense has 17 sacks.  

Last season the UND defense had 48 tackles-for-loss for a total of 177 yards.  This season the UND defense already has 60 TFL’s for 223 yards.  Huge difference there and a main reason why they are getting off the field on third down at a 65% clip, good for second best in the Big Sky.  

The offensive rushing numbers are similar to last season but the 2014 offense is throwing for about 130 yds/game less.  They have also thrown the ball less than half as much in 2014 as they did last season so those numbers are skewed a bit.

The UND offensive line is still struggling to find consistency or any sustained success.  Pass protection has been a mixed bag, not as bad as some think, but their run blocking has been consistently average-to-poor.  78 yds/game and an average of 2.3 yds/rush isn’t going to get it done.

Losing senior WR RJ McGill to a season ending knee injury hurts bad.  He was the bonafide leader of this team, not to mention the most consistent and best WR.  McGill also returned kickoffs so UND has to scramble there.

A group that has over-achieved this year, bigtime, is the UND defensive line.  There are zero all-conference type players in that bunch.  Plus, they lost Kyle Woodsmall a few weeks ago, along with Shea Walker quitting.  Now they are rolling with 7-8 total defensive lineman, all of which are lunch pail type of players.  When watching the games over again, this group works their tails off every play to hold the line and allow guys like Will Ratelle and Taj Rich to rack up huge tackle numbers.

We love the energy that Jordan Hinojosa has brought to this team .  The guy is a fireball of emotion and epitomizes the type of effort that we touched on above.  He has the tools to be disruptive in the backfield but his best trait is pure effort.

Let’s also keep in mind that the UND defense is doing all of this without the aid of a consistent, booming punter to pin other offense’s deep in their own end.  With returning punter Mitch Meindel suspended for four games, UND was forced to use true freshman walk-on punter Connor Bolduc.  We preface this by saying that Bolduc has done a pretty damn good job considering he is supposed to be a scout this year and did not get named the starting punter until 7 days before the SJSU game.  He hasn’t gotten any punts blocked and has put 10 of them inside the 20 yard line.  However, there have been many cases where the UND offense drove out to around their own 30-35 yard line and the opposing offense then ended up starting at their own 30-40 yard line after the punt.  35-40 yard punts are not good enough to consistently win games.  A good punt at the end of the game can win the game.

True freshman defensive lineman Brandon Dranka is going to be good.  He has the “horsepower” to rush the passer and consistently disrupt plays in the backfield.  On the year he has 14 tackles, 3 TFL’s and 1.5 sacks.  Not bad for a true freshman in a 3-4 scheme.

UND ended up playing 10 true freshman this year.  They also ended up red-shirting two juco transfers (Dylan Bakker and Charles Flowers).  Kind of a strange year.

The remaining schedule is favorable to UND as Eastern Washington is the only ranked team left on the schedule.  That being said, UND is going to be a dogfight with every team it plays the rest of the year.  They are not equipped to blow anybody out so it will always be a grinder, every week, all game.  Good drama for the fans, anyway.  Winning 4 of the remaining 5 will go a long way to getting this thing back on track.  The remaining schedule is:

8.  at Southern Utah (1-7)
9.  at #2 Eastern Washington (7-1)
10.  vs. Weber State (0-7)
11.  vs. Northern Arizona (4-3)
12.  at Northern Colorado (2-5)


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