UND takes on the Portland State Vikings of the Big Sky Conference in this years annual Potato Bowl. This game will be a non-conference game, however. Gametime is set for 6pm at the Alerus Center with television coverage provided by Midcontinent, as all home games are. Both teams enter the game with 1-0 records as Portland State beat Carroll College last week 38-20 and UND beat South Dakota Mines 66-0.
The last time these two teams met was in 1981 when UND beat the Vikings 17-10 in Grand Forks. The overall series is tied 1-1.
UND Defense vs. PSU Offense
Portland State runs the same pistol offense that was made popular by Nevada in the late 2000’s. UND fans can expect to see a lot of pulling lineman as it appears that the Vikings like to run zone/counter type of plays out of it. QB boot and rollouts are also staples of the Pistol offense when they want to get their QB out on the edge for a run/pass option.
The offense is led by true freshman QB #4 Kieran McDonagh, who goes 6’1″-240 lbs. McDonagh, from what we have seen, appears to have a good throwing arm and good mobility. Due to his size it is obvious that he has no problem trying to run for the first down and will lower his shoulder; he is not scared of contact. Last week McDonagh was 8-16 for 192 yds and 2 TD’s.
The main RB for the Vikings is #10 DJ Adams, who had 82 yards on 14 carries with 2 TD’s for the Vikings in their opening day win. He possesses nice speed and will be a threat to break it at any time.
The receiver situation will get an immediate upgrade as 2011 leading receiver #84 Justin Monahan returns this week after a one week suspension. Monahan had 52 catches for 707 yards and 6 TD’s last season. At 6’2-200lbs he will be a big physical threat for the Vikings.
Defensive keys to the game:
- UND absolutely, 100% needs to stop the run to win this football game. Portland State’s run/pass ratio in 2011 was 2:1, making them a predominately running team. The strength of the UND defense the past few years has been vs. the run.
- The UND crowd needs to be loud – real loud. PSU is starting a true freshman QB in his first road game of his career.
- Bottom line: If Portland State is throwing the ball on Saturday, UND is doing something right. If PSU is running the ball effectively, UND will be in trouble.
UND Offense vs. PSU Defense
Portland State will bring a base 4-3 alignment to the Alerus Center on Saturday. They have 2 FBS transfers at defensive end that key their defense – one from Boise State and the other from Texas Southern. The ability of Marquis Jackson (#7) and Nick Alexander (#90) to create pressure off the edge will keep UND’s offensive tackles plenty busy. The will play a lot of ‘2-high’ looks in the secondary with cover 4 and ‘man-under’. On passing downs and 3rd and long, they will play a 3-3-5 coverage with a ‘3 high’ look.
Senior QB Marcus Hendrickson will be all the talk with the injury to Braden Hanson catapulting the lakes country native in to the starting role this week. He needs to manage the game and take what is available. We worry a little about him trying to do too much. However, if he is just efficient running the offense and utilizes the weapons he has at his disposal, he should be fine. His athleticism and ability to scramble and leave the pocket will be helpful as well.
Offensive line pass protection must improve this week against a much more talented front 4. Emmett Lynch and Darren Deneui will be charged with shoring up the edge pressure to give Hendrickson confidence and time to stand in the pocket. We expect that the RB’s will play a key role in pass protection this week and will be called upon to help ‘chip’ on the defensive ends when needed.
Offensive keys to the game:
- Run the ball effectively to keep pressure off Hendrickson
- Deneui & Lynch (OTs) vs. Jackson and Alexander (DEs)
- Early quick passing game to help neutralize the pressure off the edge from the defensive ends
- Hendrickson: use your weapons. Hardin, McGill and Jackson all present different problems. We are also interested to see what role true freshman WR Kenny Golladay will have this week, if any. He brings a totally different skill set to the game.
This is a highly anticipated game for the UND football team and its fans. It will give all involved a good idea of where UND sits when it comes to the Big Sky hierarchy. Portland State was picked 4th in both Big Sky preseason polls with UND being picked 6th/10th. Both teams are run-first type of teams and really are pretty similar in a lot of areas. However, on special teams PSU will be without All-American kicker in Zach Brown, who was hurt last week vs. Carroll College. The special teams edge now goes to UND as they have Zeb Miller, who should be a major weapon for UND this season. Both teams are prolific at blocking kicks as they were #1 (UND) and #2 in the country last year in total blocks. Expect UND to block a kick tomorrow. A lot of similarities but we feel the difference will be that UND gets them at home, where they have proven to be tough to beat over the years.
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