UND Thumps Poly – Not Selected For Playoffs

Knowing they had to win to get into the FCS playoffs, the UND football team went out to San Luis Obispo, California on Saturday and played exactly like a team looking to secure a playoff berth.  The Fighting Hawks absolutely pounded the Mustangs from the opening kickoff to the final horn, winning 45-21.

That final score was a little deceiving however as UND led 35-0 in the 3rd quarter and played some younger depth in the final quarter and change.

The UND defense played an outstanding game in virtually shutting down the vaunted Cal-Poly triple option attack. The Stangs ended the game with only 153 yards on 48 rushing attempts, by FAR their lowest of the season.  The biggest key was UND was able to keep them in check through sound tackling, not allowing any big runs.  When you make a triple-option team snap it again and again bad things are going to happen to them.

The one disappointing play defensively was when Poly continued to predictably chuck it deep in catchup mode and Deion Harris was beaten on a long TD pass play unnecessarily.  Have to be smarter in that situation.  Make it a learning experience.

Not surprisingly, S Cole Reyes and ILB Will Ratelle led the Hawks in tackles with 21 combined.  Those two were everywhere, sideline to sideline, and really stuck out all game.

The UND offense was dominating up front all game.  In jumping out to their 28-0 halftime lead, the UND offensive line methodically opened up holes for RB John Santiago on each and every drive.

QB Keaton Studsrud was damn near perfect on Saturday in his overall play.  He ended the game 17-20 for 255 yards and 2 TD’s.  The long skinny post to WR Clive Georges that put UND up 21-0 was a well-timed call by OC Paul Rudolph and sort of broke the spirit of the Poly team, IMO.


We have been railing on this pretty hard on our Twitter feed so we will vent here one last time.  Eventually we will move on but as of Monday morning we still cannot figure out how UND didn’t get in the FCS playoff field.

When looking into everything we see the Chair of the Committee, Mark Wilson of Tennessee Tech (nothing says “I know good football” like an AD from Tennessee Tech) just happens to be from the Ohio Valley Conference.  Funny, the last team in was from the OVC.  The same conference that is a perennial playoff doormat.

We are split on Western Illinois.  Fritz believes WIU is a non-starter because they only have 6 wins.  Having a 6 D1 win team in the playoffs over 7 D1 win teams is unprecedented.  Now all 6-win teams will have to be considered by the committee moving forward.  As if it wasn’t already difficult enough.  Oskie believes 6-win WIU deserved to be in over 7-win UND because of high-end wins & SOS and is justified because the committee “explained” their rationale on strength of schedule and good losses.  Debate and discuss.

Not one single mention of WIU as a playoff candidate by ANYONE all season long until Craig Haley’s Saturday evening projection release.  Two weeks prior, he had UND in the field.  Interesting.  Not shockingly, WIU was paired up with Dayton in the first round.  You do the math.

Very little case can be made for Fordham and Eastern Illinois when actually looking at the schedules and seeing who they beat.  Who you beat is actually important in our minds because it shows what your ceiling is.  Eastern Illinois ceiling is beating non-playoff teams that are average.

Outstanding job, Mark Wilson.  You and your committee are now getting blasted by pretty much everyone around the country who follows FCS football.  Not just for excluding UND, which most people agree with us on, but by placing 5 MVFC teams on one side of the bracket from what you yourself call the strongest conference in the country.

While we’re at it, who did Sam Houston State beat?  I guess previous playoff history played quite the role this year.

**However, why not 6-5 Eastern Washington?  Look at their schedule in a much better conference.  Talk about “good losses”.  Their 5 losses:

  • @ Oregon 61-42
  • @ Northern Iowa 38-35
  • vs Portland State 34-31
  • @Montana 57-16
  • vs Northern Arizona 52-30

We’d like to to hear what Doug Fullerton thinks about this and would like to hear what Idaho State’s AD Jeff Tingey has to say about it since he was in the room as the BSC rep on the selection committee.  Apparently, we needed better politicking.

The healing here will take a while on this one, especially because of the seniors, whom we will salute in a later post.

Hats off to Bubba, his staff, and the entire team.  You have everyone’s attention going into 2016.

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Week 11 Preview – Cal Poly Mustangs

The Game Vitals

download (1)Game Time – 8:05 CT

Opponent – Cal Poly Mustangs @ Alex Spanos Stadium, San Luis Obispo, CA.

Game Notes – UND

TV – None   Radio – UND Radio Network

Online Streaming – Eversport

Spread – Poly -7.  Total =  64

The UND Football team heads out to California this week to play in arguably their biggest game since the move to D1 began in 2008.  UND is mostly healthy this week, with the exceptions being DE Daquan Baker (out), DE Drew Greely (out) and RB Brady Oliveira (out).

What you are going to see out of UND is an all hands on deck, all pages of the playbook available, all-out effort to win this football game.  This will be a tough, physical four quarter game folks.  Win and UND has a real shot at their first FCS playoff berth.

Cal Poly (4-6) Breakdown

— Offense = Triple Option

— Defense = 4-3

Offensively, Poly is averaging 35 points and almost 500 yards per game this year, with 410 yards of that average coming on the ground. We have been pretty braggart about UND rushing for over 400 yards in the last 2 games, but that is actually what Poly is averaging…..per game. Pretty amazing.

Senior QB Chris Brown is the catalyst for the rushing attack. He has rushed for 1,016 yards and 11 TDs and thrown for 635 yards and another 11 TDs. Wide receiver Willie Tucker is the big play threat with 13 receptions for 315 yards (24.2 yd avg) and 6 TDs.  Tucker is usually WIDE open due to teams worrying about the run so much.

There’s really nothing more oxymoronic than the Cal-Poly offense – so simple, yet so complex.  So easy to gameplan for, yet so difficult to defend.  You know what they are going to do, but can you stop it?  There are many different variations and blocking schemes to run out of in the “triple option” and the Mustangs employ all of them.  Every position has to be on point and not lulled to sleep.  Dive, QB keeper, pitch,  and then a playaction option pass down the field.  The UND defense has to be disciplined in their reads and assignments this week, or we will see what we have seen against Poly in the past – too many big plays.

UND’s corners and safeties will be called upon again this week on the perimeter/in space and will be integral in run support.  They have to be sharp and patient with their run/pass reads and still be able to be aggressive in attacking on the pitch.  Easier said than done.

Defensively, Poly is a base 4-3 team, like most of UND’s opponents this season.  The Mustangs are giving up 34.5 pts/game and 456 yards of total offense per game (290/166). While those stats show big numbers, we believe they are a sound unit in that they appear to be well coached and adjust well on the fly.

But, from what we have seen and read they are a pretty tame defense as far as pressure goes.  Poly likes to sit in their 4-3 alignment and “read & react” vs. coming from all angles with pressure.  They remind us of UC-Davis or Northern Colorado in that respect.  Poly has only 16 sacks on the year (UND has 27).

A key statistic working in UND’s favor this week is Poly’s struggles on third down as a defense.  Opponent’s are converting at a 44% rate vs. the Mustang defense (11th in Big Sky), which is leading to those inflated yardage numbers.

The strength of the Poly defense is probably their defensive line.  Led by #95 Kelly Shepard (6’4″-250).  Shepard has 5.5 TFL’s and 2.5 sacks on the year.  With the way that Poly plays their defensive line doesn’t put up huge numbers but they do a decent job at the point of contact.

The three LB’s for Poly are their leading tacklers.  #43 Tu’uta Inoke is the leading tackler from his ILB position with 86 tackles and 4 TFL’s.  #11 Burton De Koning is second and #36 Joe Giantino is 3rd.  All three of these guys are bigger linebackers, ranging from 230-250 pounds.  These are the type of players that RB John Santiago is going to have to make miss to break his weekly long runs.  There will be many chances on Saturday.

#1 safety B.J. Nard leads the Poly defense with 3 INT’s.  Much like UND, Poly has not gotten many INT’s this year with only seven to their credit.  We think there will be opportunities in the passing game this week for QB Keaton Studsrud and his WR’s.

North Dakota (6-4) Keys to the Game

  • Defending the big pass play by Poly.  The Mustangs will run, run, run, run, run, PASS, and when they pass it’s usually a home run ball.  If UND can defend that big pass play and make them get their yards on the ground they have a very good shot at winning Saturday.
  • Make QB Chris Brown pitch the ball more than not.  He is their leading rusher and would like nothing more than to keep it on the option.  Force the ball to be given up and a potential for fumbles will come with it.
  • The UND offense needs to win this game.  Long, methodical run-oriented drives capped with TD’s will break Poly’s spirit in this last game of the season.  They are done after tomorrow so motivation could be questioned.  However, they have seniors playing their last games of their careers too so pride could make up for that.
  • Keeping Poly’s option offense OFF the field will disrupt their rhythm.  When the option is in rhythm it is a thing of beauty – when its out of rhythm it’s an ugly site.
  • Tackling.  You cannot afford missed tackles against this attack, specifically when it’s “out the gate” on the perimeter.  There will be plenty of 1-on-1 tackling situations that UND needs to win.  As we mentioned earlier, this is incumbent on the secondary.


UND needs to play their most complete game of the season vs. this well-disciplined Cal-Poly team.  Poly is better than their record indicates, as they have played a hellacious schedule this year with the likes of Arizona State, Northern Iowa, and Montana encompassing their non-conference slate.  We feel UND will have the ability to wear down Poly and the offensive side of the ball and do enough defensively to beat the Mustangs on the road in this game.

North Dakota  37

Cal Poly  28


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UND Playoff Scenarios

Let’s preface this discussion by saying UND must first and foremost WIN in the regular season finale out in beautiful San Luis Obispo, California vs. Cal-Poly and their triple option attack.  No small task for UND.  If they do not win, the rest of the dialogue below means nothing.


  1. There are 14 “at-large” bids.
  2. The MVFC will get at least 3 of them (Illinois State, SDSU, and UNI).
  3. The CAA will get at least 3 of them (James Madison (in), Richmond (in), Towson, UNH, and Villanova fighting for spots).  Based on strength of wins we are not convinced that Towson gets in at 7-4.  Their best win is over 6-4 Villanova.  UNH is also a wildcard with their best win being over 7-3 Richmond and the rest being poor wins.  Villanova has to play James Madison, who is in.
  4. The Southland will get at least 1 of them (Central Arkansas OR Sam Houston State).  We need Sam Houston State (7-3) to beat Central Arkansas (7-3) to get them their fourth loss and make it a comparison contest.  Central Arkansas has beat NOBODY of substance.  SHSU has a D2 win, meaning they would only have 7 FCS wins.
  5. The Southern Conference will MAYBE get 1 of them (Citadel 7-4).  The Citadel has no wins of substance.
  6. The Ohio Valley Conference will only get 1 of them.  Eastern Illinois vs. Eastern Kentucky is a battle for 7 FCS wins.  Winner is in the discussion, loser is out.
  7. The Patriot League will MAYBE get 1 of them.  Fordham is a huge X factor in this discussion.   They are done playing at 9-2, with a win over Army.  They lost to Colgate, however, meaning they will not win the PL auto bid (Colgate gets it).  They could get an at-large but their schedule is so weak that they may be left out.

(BOLDED below are the teams that would benefit UND most by winning)

Portland State
(@ Eastern Washington 6-4):  Portland State is in and could get a Top 8 seed with a win.  Would be nice for UND to have that on the resume.  Also, EWU is OUT with a loss.  Freeing up another at-large spot.

Montana State (vs Montana 6-4):  Montana beat UND handily in Missoula 42-16 earlier this year without Keaton Studsrud and Cole Reyes.  If the Bobcats can pull the upset, Montana is OUT.  Freeing up another at-large spot.

Southern Utah 7-3 (vs Northern Arizona 7-3):  At 7 wins, NAU is likely out because of the D2 win on their schedule.  SUU win here would benefit UND’s chances.  Either way, the loser of this game is OUT.  SUU wins the Big Sky if they beat NAU.

Southern Illinois (@ UNI 6-4)
Maine (@ New Hampshire 6-4)
Rhode Island (@ Towson 6-4)
James Madison (vs Villanova 6-4)
Sam Houston State (Central Arkansas 7-3)

To sum it up:  If UND wins and at least 2-3 of the above bolded teams win, UND should get an at-large. The Big Sky should get 3 at-large teams, 4 might be a stretch and would be based on upsets in CAA.

**Most importantly, if EWU and/or Montana lose that will help UND tremendously based on them being direct competition from the Big Sky.


A Dominating Win Over Northern Colorado

We have been waiting a long time to see UND blow out an opponent. Having to play 11 “meat-grinder” type of games every year is not good for a team’s mental state. They need breaks where the starters can sit back in the 4th quarter and cheer on their teammates while relishing in the decisive victory. Well, UND finally got one of those in UND’s Senior Day home finale 45-14 victory over Northern Colorado to improve to 6-4 on the year and 4-3 in the Big Sky.

UND absolutely beat down Northern Colorado on Saturday, looking like a team that recharged it’s batteries during the bye week. Northern Colorado did not look anything like the team that beat Big Sky front-runner Portland State the week before. The Bears were out of sync from the start and never threatened UND offensively, defensively, or on special teams (where they were very good coming in).

Total Yards:  UND – 558 … UNC – 275.

Points off turnovers:  UND 28 … UNC 0.

Turnovers:  UND 0 … UNC 5 (3 int, 2 fumbles)

Junior OLB Brian Labat set the tone early and was a man on a mission Saturday. He intercepted the second play of the game with a perfect flat drop and took it back for a 35 yard TD to put UND up 7-0. But he wasn’t done there. Labat also recovered a fumble, forced a fumble, 2.5 TFL’s, 1 sack, and 2 QB hurries. What a game for the Detroit Lakes native.

The UND defense was dominating. The Bears tacked on a couple late TD’s in the 4th quarter when they left their starting offensive line and skill players in vs. UND’s 2nd and 3rd stringers. Up to that point, through three quarters, UNC had 111 total yards.

UND picked off three Jacob Knipp passes before Coach Earnest Collins pulled the freshman in favor of former starter Jonathan Newsom. The most impressive INT was by UND CB Deion Harris, who used perfect technique to go up and intercept the long post pass at it’s highest point over the UNC WR. That was great to see. ILB Will Ratelle also added a diving INT along the sideline off a horrible pass by Knipp, who was under heavy pressure on the play, and all day for that matter.

The UND front seven played their best game of the season. Knipp had no time to survey the field or let any routes develop on Saturday. UND ended the game with 11 TFL’s and 6 sacks, with Jake Disterhaupt, Labat, Noah Johnson, Kyle Woodsmall, Dylan Harmston, Alec Carrothers/Tank Harris all getting in on the ‘SACKtion’.

The UND offensive line was absolutely devastating, once again. True freshman Elijah Grady gutted it out and started at RT, even though he hurt his knee two weeks prior. UND ran for 408 yards, with freshman John Santiago registering 180 of them in only one half of action. He was lights out – again.  Pass protection was very good also, allowing QB Keaton Studsrud plenty of time all day.  Studsrud finished the day 13-16 for 141 yards and 1 TD to senior TE Zach Adler.

John Santiago continues to impress to the point where we are in ‘awe’.  He’s shored up some technical stuff that has helped with his early season fumbling issues.  His ability to finish off runs, outrun angles of opposing secondaries and most of the time, pull away, is what sets him apart from other backs that we see across the country.  At no time this year has he ever been ‘closed on’ by anybody we have seen.  We will be the first to admit we did not see this type of special elite talent in him.  He will be fun to watch for the next 3+ years.

The only downer to Saturdays game was the loss of freshman RB Brady Oliveira, who appeared to injure his right knee after getting pulled over a defender. There has been speculation that he only sprained it and did not tear any ligaments. That would be huge for that young man, who has had a great rookie season. Let’s hope for good news this week on Brady.

We will have a playoff scenario writeup coming sometime later today.  Buckle up……

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Week 10 Preview – Northern Colorado Bears (Senior Day)

The Game Vitals
download (1)Game Time
 – 1:00 CT

Opponent – Northern Colorado Bears @ Alerus Center, Grand Forks, ND

Game Notes – UND

TV – Midco Sports Network   Radio – UND Radio Network

Online Streaming – Eversport

                                                                   Spread – UND -7.  Total =  58

Northern Colorado (5-4) Breakdown

— Offense = Spread, Shotgun/Pistol.  3-4 WR’s.

— Defense = 4-3

Offensively, UNC runs a pretty balanced running and passing attack that averages 30.7 points, 166 rushing yards and 224 passing yards per game.  They will run power and counter but also run inside zone out of the pistol formation set.  They employ at least one TE most times, as evidenced by their primary 11 and 12 personnel groupings.

Redshirt freshman QB Jacob Knipp has thrown for 1,591 yards with 10 TDs and 7 interceptions.  Last week against a stout Portland State defense, he carved up their secondary in the first half while jumping out to an early lead.  Fellow redshirt freshman RB Trae Riek has had an impressive campaign with 607 yards and 6 TDs.

The Bears wide receiving corps is generally diminutive, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in speed and quickness.  This is a scatty, talented group of wideouts that cause concern for us.  WR #87 Stephen Miller leads the team with 24 receptions for 365 yards and 3 TDs.

Given it’s youth at the skill positions, this UNC offense is starting to hit its stride and should be a force to be reckon with the next few years.  UNC’s record would not be where it is at today without the success of the offense.

The UND defense absolutely needs to get pressure on the QB in passing downs and situations.  Secondary play is always better when the QB is under duress.  These UNC WRs are slippery and dangerous and run good routes that take longer to develop.  If Knipp has time to sit in the pocket and let the routes develop, he has shown an ability to pick apart opposing defenses.

Teams have shown that they are going to “slide protect” vs. UND – meaning they slide the entire offensive line one way and keep a TE or RB in to protect.  This essentially creates a wall that won’t be penetrated up the middle.  UND needs to use pressures that attack off the edge via OLB/S to get to Knipp.

Defensively,  the Bears are giving up 33 pts per game and most importantly for UND, they are giving up 209 rushing yards per game.  They are not any better vs. the pass, giving up 275 yards per game.

The Bears are a true 4-3 team.  They don’t bring a ton of pressure and will sit back vs. spread out sets.  When teams bring in a TE/FB they will bring in their LB’s accordingly.  However, vs. Portland State last week it appeared they were doing a healthy dose of stunting and twisting up front, which caused major issues for the Vikings run game.  The result was the biggest win UNC has achieved in a long, long time.  Look for them to continue that vs. UND this week.  The UND offense had trouble running the ball early in the year vs. teams that moved around up front and like to play games with the DE/DT.

SS Taylor Risner is far and away their leading tackler with 92 total stops on the year.  He is an impressive athlete back there at 6’2″-205.

Another impressive player on the defense is LE #9 Mikhail Dubose, who has tallied 4.5 sacks and 9.5 TFL’s so far this year.  He is a dynamic pass rusher from his end spot.  Dubose will need to ran AT so as to not allow him to be free running down plays on Saturday.

Senior Day – Here are the 2015 UND Seniors:
3  RB Ja’won Arrington – Birmingham AL
9  DB Dillon Olson – Grygla, Minn.
11  WR Miguel Cerriteno – Las Vegas, Nev.
16  WR Romon Bridges – Stockton, Calif.
31  LB Dayo Idowu – Woodbury, Minn.
36  TE Zach Adler – Omaha, Neb.
37  LB Javen Butler – Pittsburg, Calif.
38  DB William James – Sollentuna, Sweden
51  LB Will Ratelle – Edina, Minn.
63  OL Sean Meehan – Trevor, Wis.
71  OL Brandon Anderson – Sartell, Minn.
73  OL Colton Boas – Bloomfield, Iowa
97  DL Kyle Woodsmall – Wildwood, Mo.

North Dakota (5-4) Keys to the Game

  1. Stop Trae Riek.  UND has been good vs. the run this year, allowing only 94 yds/game, but has shown some vulnerability lately vs. MSU and Montana.  Slowing down Riek will go a long way to stopping the UNC offense by making them predictable and one-dimensional.
  2. Seniors – lead the way.  Tomorrow’s game is Senior Day for 13 members of the UND Football team.  Fittingly, two offensive lineman (Brandon Anderson and Sean Meehan), lead the way with a combined 76 starts in their career. Along with Adler, Idowu, and Ratelle, these five have been the backbone of the 2015 program and UND could not have had better senior leadership this season.
  3. Offensive line shuffling.  With Elijah Grady a game time decision, don’t be surprised if UND slides Sean Meehan back out to RT and inserts Dan Bell at RG.  LT/RT Mat Cox will be needed all around this week.
  4. Build a lead early.  UND has jumped out to the lead in 7 of 9 games this year.  Get the lead and BUILD on it this week.  Don’t let UNC hang around because as we have seen bad things happen when UND let’s a team hang around.
  5. Kickoff and Punt Coverage.  UNC is extremely dynamic in the return game.  #13 Ellis Onic has returned two punts for TD’s and #11 Hakeem Deggs has returned two kickoffs for TD’s this year.  Make UNC score TD’s vs. your defense, not your special teams.  The above stats tell us UND will be using Alex MacGregor to kickoff or will have Reid Taubenheim pooch kicking.  Kicking off to the 5-10 yard line is a recipe for disaster vs. UNC.


With the exception of last year’s beatdown in Greeley (33-14 UND), history shows these games to be extremely close down to the final minute and plays during the Division 1 and Big Sky era.  Everyone remembers the famous 4th down stop in Greeley when UNC had 12 defenders on the field and wasn’t called for it.

Both teams and programs in general are improved since last year and are trending upwards in the Big Sky Conference relative to recent past performance.  While UNC’s playoff chances are zero, both teams enter the game at 5-4 with postseason chances on the line.

Special teams, specifically in the UNC return game, will be under the microscope tomorrow against their talented return men.  Special Teams TDs can be backbreakers in any game.  UND must contain the UNC return game.

UND had a bye week to prep for UNC and get healthier than they have been all season at some key positions.  The bye week prep has proven to be a huge advantage this year.  We think and hope that this trend holds and that UND heads into the final week with some positive momentum.

North Dakota  37

Northern Colorado  23


Comments Off on Week 10 Preview – Northern Colorado Bears (Senior Day)

Just Win, Baby

After a crazy Big Sky Conference Saturday, speculation is rampant for playoff chances for a bunch of FCS squads in multiple conferences who still have the opportunity to get to 7 wins.  UND is one of those schools.

Northern Colorado controlled Portland State for most of the game in their shocking 35-32 win in Greeley. UNC looked solid all day on offense against a good PSU defense.

Northern Arizona stunned everyone by going into Cheney on the red turf  and routing Eastern Washington 52-30.  NAU is one of the hotter teams in the Big Sky right now and they are doing it with a freshman QB.

Idaho State was lining up for a 34 yard field goal in overtime to win the game against Montana and botched the snap, allowing Montana to recover the fumble and run it back for a TD to win 33-27 in Pocatello at Holt Arena.  One of the more unbelievable finishes we have seen in some time.

Do all of these results benefit UND’s playoff chances?  No.

However, there is a ton of football to be played yet and if UND loses this week against UNC, this discussion is moot.  Bottom line for UND is:  just go out and win this week and take care of what you can control.

Everything will work itself out in the next couple weeks.  And for the sake of the discussion, here are the current standings as of today:


Here are the playoff contenders remaining schedules:

  • Southern Utah has a trip to Portland State next weekend and then hosts red-hot Northern Arizona.  They have a D2 win on their resume against Brevard College, so they will likely have to win at least one more game to secure a playoff chance.
  • Eastern Washington heads to Montana next week and then hosts Portland State.
  • Portland State hosts Southern Utah, then travels to Eastern Washington.
  • Montana plays Eastern Washington in Missoula, then heads to Bozeman for their rivalry game.
  • Northern Arizona plays Sacramento State in Flagstaff next week, then heads out to Southern Utah for their final week.  NAU has a D2 win on their resume against New Mexico Highlands that will disregarded by the committee, so they likely need to win out.
  • While Northern Colorado is playing well this year, even if they win out, they cannot reach the 7 ‘division 1 wins’ plateau because of their D2 win over Western State.

So as illustrated, the possibilities are endless and this thing is far from over.  This is just within the Big Sky Conference.  The Missouri Valley has it’s own logjam and to work out as do other conferences across the country.

All of it means nothing for UND if they don’t go out and win their game this week in Grand Forks at the Alerus against an upstart UNC squad, who has a dangerous offense.

Just think, if UND had stayed healthy and finished off Idaho State and Weber, we’d be talking about chasing a conference title at 7-2 overall and 5-1 in the BSC.


It’s A Two Game Season

The UND Football team has finally reached it’s much needed bye week.  They have navigated their way through the first nine games and are now sitting with a 5-4 record and real shot at making their first trip to the FCS Playoffs.

As the title of this post reads, it is essentially a two game season for UND.  Go 2-0 and you (more-than-likely) get into the playoffs.  Lose either one of them (home vs. UNC – at Cal-Poly) and you are done.

Being it’s an 11 game season in FCS football, 7 wins will get you into the conversation for an at-large bid.  Who those 7 wins are against is the key, along with what conference you are in.  Being in the Big Sky Conference is a plus for UND (strength of conference).

7 win teams in the OVC, Southern, Big South, or Southland are not guaranteed to get in.

7 win teams in the Big Sky, MVFC and CAA will get a longer look at an at-large bid than the previously mentioned conferences.

The following facts are based on UND winning the last two games of the season (which will not be easy), but it’s fun to think about:

  • UND will have an FBS win vs. Wyoming.  HUGE plus in the committee’s eyes.
  • UND will have a Top 10 win at Portland State, who is 7-1 (their only loss).
  • UND will have a possible Top 25 win vs.  Montana State (always looks good no matter the year).
  • The Idaho State loss will look bad, no denying that, no excuses.  But it’s also a game they win if Keaton Studsrud doesn’t get hurt in the 2nd half.  They were also without S Cole Reyes and LB Taj Rich for the first time.
  • Two of UND’s losses are at NDSU (Top 5 team) and at Montana (Top 20 team).  Won’t be held against them.

There are a TON of 5-3 and 4-4 teams out there right now.  This weekend will clear up a lot of things.  Whoever gets their 5th loss is out.  Beginning next week we will re-group the teams that have 3 and 4 losses to see where it all shakes out.

The biggest game of the season is coming up next Saturday at the Alerus Center vs. old NCC foe Northern Colorado (4-4).  Win and UND has a shot at their first ever FCS Playoff berth waiting for them in San Luis Obispo.  UNC is a much improved team this season and a home field advantage in front of a loud Alerus crowd would go a long way next Saturday.

P.S. – If UND does win out we sincerely hope that AD Brian Faison is prepared to put in a “healthy” bid to host a first round home playoff game.  These chances come around only so often and to get that first playoff game at home would be monumental.



Big Win Over Bobcats

For all of you (including us) wondering if the UND Football team could win a “shootout” type of a game, well, you got your answer on Saturday.  UND and Montana State got into a wild one at the Alerus Center and the future Hawks/Nodaks/Roughriders pulled it out at the very end, 44-38.

It was an extremely entertaining game for the fans with explosive plays happening throughout, most of which were by UND.

UND also went all Green for this game and we loved it!  Great classic look.











  1. The return of QB Keaton Studsrud galvanized the UND offense.  There is no question that the offense plays with a different demeanor with him in there.  We can’t quite put our finger on “it” because it doesn’t appear that he is a big rah-rah guy vocally, but he’s definitely got command of the offense and huddle.
  2. Studsrud never ran QB power once throughout the game.  That play would have worked well, based on the fact UND ran for 426 yards.  But, it was obvious that he still was not 100% confident in his cutting ability.
  3. Studsrud only threw the ball 9 times on Saturday. He completed 6 of them and had 2 others dropped by Josh Seibel.  Seibel also fumbled on a first down conversion that could have been recovered by freshman WR Luke Stanley, who tried to pick it up and advance it instead of falling on it around the pile – another youthful rookie mistake. Seibel needs to lock it in here down the stretch and start playing better.
  4. The return of WR Clive Georges completely changed the dynamic of the UND offense.  When UND can throw a 5 yard hitch to Georges, have him make one move, and take it to house for a 21 yard TD, that is special.  Offensive coordinator Paul Rudolph called a masterful game on Saturday.  But, having playmakers like Georges and Santiago makes his life so much easier knowing he doesn’t have to script a 10-15 play drive every time they get the ball (like last year).
  5. Overall, the offensive line just mauled people all game.  Great push and solid fundamental blocking for the most part up front.  Still a few breakdowns here and there, particularly at the center spot, that we continue to notice and needs to be cleaned up.  Pass protection still needs some work.  UND is getting beat off the edge in one-on-one situations too much lately.
  6. Brady Oliveira’s unsportsmanlike conduct 15 yard penalty cannot happen. He made the “spoonfeeding” gesture after a big gain. Why would you do that? That cannot happen anymore. Freshman rookie mistake that we hope we don’t ever see again from him or anyone else. Time to start acting like you’ve been there before.
  7. We love the nastiness of LT AJ Stockwell, love it.  But, he is starting to teeter on the edge with clippings, etc. and it cost UND field position on Saturday.  He got a clipping penalty that put UND back to 2nd and 22 in the 3rd quarter.  We don’t want him to change the way he plays just try to reign it in a bit so as to not hurt the team.
  8. Lets give some credit to the fullbacks and tight ends for the edge blocking they did on Saturday.  Jacob Francis, Zach Adler, and Luke Fiedler did a nice job either sealing or kicking their guy out to provide a lane for Santiago on the stretch plays.
  9. In fact, Fielder stuck out one time on Santiago’s long 75 yard TD run, as he was still blocking his guy at the line of scrimmage as Santiago crossed the goal line.  The UND coaches were actually yelling for him to stop as he did not know where the ball was.  Pure effort and desire to do HIS job.
  10. True freshman RB’s John Santiago (30-230-3TD) and Brady Oliveira (12-167-1TD) were outstanding once again this week.  Santiago is the speed and quickness and Oliveira is the power, along with a quick cutting ability at the line.  Those two are going to be something to watch over the next three years.
  11. The UND Defense finally created 4 turnovers. However, the UND Offense gave it back 3 times of their own, 2 of which were by Studsrud in pass protection. In our estimation, one for sure was on the o-line/RB. It can be debated that Studsrud’s internal clock needed to go off on the other one.
  12. The absolute “want-to” out of ILB Will Ratelle is almost unbelievable.  He wants to get to the ball carrier no matter where he is on the field.   Ratelle was everywhere vs. MSU, with 13 tackles and 0.5 TFL and 0.5 sacks.  He is carrying this defense right now.
  13. The Bobcats continually hurt UND with the quick bubble screen.  But, those are chain-moving plays for MSU and not what they want to do as an offense.  Would UND like to defend them better?  I suppose, but we aren’t too worried about those because there isn’t an OC in America that will keep calling those all game.
  14. In addition, we can’t help but notice the corners in run support.  They have to be tougher and do better at getting off stalk-blocks by WR’s and close the alley to set the perimeter edge.  It is impossible for the rest of pursuit to adjust when they are dancing inside and out with the blocking WRs.  We realize they were softened up by the Bobcats gimmicky plays on offense, but they still have to do better.  Both Tyus Carter and Deion Harris are very talented young corners with chances to be very good, but now it is time to start learning from your mistakes in the run game as well as the pass game.  You can’t be a complete corner until you start making a difference in run game support.  This is our challenge to them in the final weeks (obviously in addition to playing the ball better in the air in the pass game).
  15. We were surprised with the Bobcat running game and how well it did.  They ran for 186 yards on 37 carries.  Give them credit for running the ball right at the strength of the UND defense.
  16. The above point makes us wonder why MSU needs to keep reverting to gimmicky plays every other series?  They have a solid scheme with Prukop at the controls but turn to bubble-screen double passes, throw back passes to QB, fake handoff/fake reverse play-action passes that really are not needed.  They hurt UND most with their base stuff on Saturday.
  17. This is a great time for a bye week as UND plays a much improved Northern Colorado squad in Grand Forks on November 14th.  Studsrud, Cole Reyes, Stockwell, Dayo Idowu, Steve Greer, Drew Greely (could play), and Elijah Grady all get a chance to heal up for the stretch run.
  18. Speaking of Grady, he went down with what appeared to be a knee injury.  After watching him stay on the sideline and watch the rest of the game we do NOT think it is serious.  Probably a minor sprain or something along those lines.  Let’s hope for the best.
  19. Big Sky officiating continues to be an embarrassment to the league.  How the head referee made the initial call of intentional grounding rather than fumble is beyond us.  He had no view or angle and the side judge that did called it a fumble accordingly.  Thank goodness for instant replay.
  20. Sidenote:  With the win over Montana State, UND has now defeated all but 2 Big Sky Conference teams since their transition to Division 1. Those 2 teams? Eastern Washington (0-3) and……Weber State (0-2).
  21. One last sidenote that we forgot to mention after last week’s Montana game.  For what it’s worth, UND has faced two teams this year on the schedule that were coming off of a bye and had 2 weeks to prepare for UND.  Those 2 teams?  NDSU and Montana – a combined 76-25 and UND’s two worst losses of the season.

Week 9 Preview – #19 Montana State Bobcats

The Game Vitals

th7NDTSXSIGame Time – 1:00 CT

Opponent – Montana State Bobcats @ Alerus Center, Grand Forks, ND

Game Notes – UND

TV – Midco Sports Network   Radio – UND Radio Network

Online Streaming – Eversport

Spread – MSU -8.5.  Total =  67

Montana State (4-3) Breakdown

— Offense = Uptempo, Spread, Shotgun/Pistol.  3 WR’s.

— Defense = 4-3 (3-4 most of the year)

Last season UND went out to Bozeman and lost 29-18.  The UND defense actually played very well in that game holding QB Dakota Prukop to -18 rushing yards.  However, he was able to throw for 267 yards & 1 TD and the Bobcats also tallied a pick-six to upend UND.

Offensively, Montana State runs primarily out of shotgun in the pistol and will definitely try establish a run game with their power and power read plays.  UND will be facing arguably the best QB in the Big Sky Conference in Prukop.  He is a dual threat behind center and while his biggest challenge comes in the run/scrambling game, he is more than capable of beating you throwing as well.  Prukop has rushed for 557 yards and 8 TDs while throwing for 2,062 yards and 18 more TDs.  Quite frankly, he scares the hell out of us.

The Bobcats have shown an affinity to “max protect” and send out 2-3 WRs on routes.  This has to be a concern for the UND defense.  The corners have shown an inability to cover the deep ball lately in one on one coverage and if UND plans on blitzing, the problem is threefold:  (1) getting pressure to Prukop when MSU max protects, (2) containing a dangerous Prukop in the pocket and on scrambling when things break down, and (3) leaving your corners locked up 1 on 1 with the Bobcat WRs.

Needless to say, there will be a feeling out process for UND defensively on Saturday.  You could see UND sitting back more in zone this week to control Prukop.  We imagine some sort of “spy” will be assigned to him on 3rd down, similar to what UND did earlier this season with Carson Wentz.  We think Will Ratelle needs to have a big game this week in order to keep Prukop in check.

Personnel-wise, the Bobcats are solid on offense.  Outside of Prukop however, we don’t see any other mismatch concerns at the skill spots or up front.

Statistically speaking, they are averaging almost 46 points and 540 yards of offense per game – impressive to say the least.  The challenge for UND on defense will be to try and control the tempo of the game overall and stop it from turning into a shootout (something that won’t bode well for UND).  The Bobcats will get their yards and move the ball.  It will be up to the UND defense to hold them to FG’s from time to time when they drive it into UND territory.

Defensively, Montana State is a base 4-3 team (as of last week).  They had been running a 3-4 but switched to a 4-3 vs. East Tennessee State due to “personnel reasons”.  This tells us they were short on linebackers and needed to get use their depth at defensive line.

This season the Bobcat defense has been nothing short of a disaster.  They made a defensive coordinator change in the off season when they added the title of ‘Co-Defensive Coordinator’ to linebacker coach Kane Loane.  Longtime defensive coordinator Jamie Marshall stayed on as the other ‘Co-Defensive Coordinator’.  The changes haven’t seemed to help.

On the season MSU is giving up 32 pts/game but those numbers are skewed by last week’s game where they gave up 7 points to FCS newcomer East Tennessee State.   MSU has given up 14, 55, 28, 49, 13, 59, and 7 thus far in 2015.

The weak link for the Bobcats is their rushing defense.  They are allowing 260 yards/game on the ground to go along with 14 TD’s.  This is an area that is obviously advantageous to UND as they base their offense around the running game and trying to control possession.

UND is averaging 199 yards/game rushing, with RB John Santiago doing the heavy lifting at 117 per game.  Santiago is 68 yards away from 1,000 for the season with 3 games to go.  The safety play of the Bobcats has been a weakness in 2015 so getting Santiago to the second level is crucial this week.

Another stat in UND’s favor is the 47% 3rd down conversion percentage that MSU is allowing.

North Dakota (4-4) Keys to the Game

  1. Hold on to the football. UND fumbled the ball four more times this past weekend out in Missoula but was somehow able to fall on all of them.  This is becoming a real problem and one of these game they are going to start losing the ball.  UND has fumbled 18 times this year but luckily only lost 8 of them.
  2. Run the young bucks early and often. MSU has major issues with their run defense and are more than likely going to try and walk somebody down this week to help out.  Pay it no mind.  Run Santiago and Brady Oliveira right at them and control the tempo.
  3. There is a tiny chance QB Keaton Studsrud plays tomorrow but more than likely Ryan Bartels will be going again.  The biggest thing UND needs to do tomorrow is throw the ball.  Get some form of passing threat going  to back off the MSU secondary and free up the box for the running game.
  4. UND Defensive Backs:  Play the ball.  If UND can just knock a couple long balls down early and/or pick one off that will change Prukop’s mindset for later in the game.  If the “chuck-and-duck” works early like it has in previous weeks for UND’s opponents, MSU will keep doing more and more of it.


North Dakota  39

Montana State  37


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Post-Missoula Thoughts

The UND Football team lost to Montana by a score of 42-16 on Saturday.  UND jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead on John Santiago’s 80 yard TD run but eventually Montana took over the game through six Makena Simis TD passes.

I am not going to review the game as much as touch on points of the game that are part of the reason for the three game losing skid.  It’s not hard to figure out why UND has lost the last three games, even while leading two of them in the 4th quarter.

Reason #1:  QB Play.  Lets break down the stats of starter Keaton Studsrud and backup Ryan Bartels first:

—                                GP    Effic.   Cmp-Att-Int    Pct    Yards   TD
Keaton Studsrud   5.75    118.9     63-120-3       52.5     745       7
Ryan Bartels          2.25    104.6     22-49-2        44.9     278       3

Studsrud had his limitations in the passing game, mostly not going through progressions, not being accurate with short routes leading to limited YAC, and getting correct height on deep balls.  However, he was improving slowly as one would expect for a true sophomore.

Studsrud’s true value was his scrambling and pure running ability.  UND pretty much counted on him to run the ball through QB power or boot legs and he got real good at it as the season progressed (63 rushes – 309 yards – 3 TD’s).  That part of the game plan was GONE once Studsrud went down.

Bartels has two years playing experience, one with the old staff and one with the new staff.  He does not have the running ability of Studsrud and actually struggles to escape pressure in the pocket.  This limits the playbook that OC Paul Rudolph had used the first 6 games.

The real problem is Bartels passing has not been anywhere near it needs to be.  On Saturday he was inaccurate on far too many throws, namely the short crosser to a wide open Josh Seibel that would have went for 20+ yards.  Bartels was 10-21-113 yards and 1 TD/1 INT on Saturday.

Also, Bartels throwing motion is so long that short routes are almost impossible to hit if the window isn’t huge or if he doesn’t start his “windup” early.  He can throw longer routes because he has time to launch it but when he needs to zip a short, quick route he cannot do it.

This offense is predicated on the run, we all know that.  The run game is going very good right now.  The last three games UND has rushed for 270, 250, and 267 yards.  That is excellent.  Credit the offensive line and the vision/power of freshman RB’s John Santiago and Brady Oliveira.

What teams are doing is slowly loading up the box as the game goes on to try and stop it and UND cannot make them pay.  The UND QB’s should have some of the easiest throws they will ever see due to one-on-one coverage and no LB help (at times) but now they cannot make the throw.  Studsrud had his moments but missed some chances as well.

(To be fair, the windows for the QB’s to throw into aren’t the biggest.  The UND WR’s struggle to get open.  We know that.)

We will go as far as to say that UND almost has to start QB Joe Mollberg this week.

Reason #2:  CB/S Play.  The UND defensive backs are not playing well right now.

In the last three games, UND’s opponent’s have thrown for 1,026 yards and 13 TD’s.

In watching the TD passes that UND gave up the past few weeks, the UND defenders are usually within arm’s length of the WR or right with them.  This tells us their footwork, hips and speed are sufficient.

The issue lies when the ball is coming down and it’s time to make a play.  We have stated before that a DB should never look back until they have caught up and got into a dominant position on the WR.  Only part of the time are the UND DB’s doing that correctly.  There is usually a little space between them and the WR that allows the WR to be comfortable and go up and get the ball.

Young DB’s, which UND has plenty of, tend to not want to look back due to fear of losing track of the WR.  However, we are now 8 games into the season and it’s time to start getting aggressive and making some plays.   Hell, take a pass interference penalty if need be.

Unfortunately, the book is out.  Throw it up and more times than not your WR will come down with it.  That is a scary deal for UND if teams are thinking that way.  Also, UND has ONE interception this season.  In eight games.  That statistic does not strike fear in opposing QB’s.

Montana State (4-3) is coming to town for a Halloween showdown this Saturday.  The Bobcats are averaging 315 yds/game passing and per usual in the Big Sky they have a couple nice WR’s.  There are no breaks in the Big Sky when it comes to pass defense.