Week 4 Preview – Sacramento State Hornets

UND heads back out the California this week as they take on the Sacramento State Hornets in what is UND’s first official Big Sky Conference football game.  Sac State comes into the game with a 2-1 record, beating Pac-12 member Colorado and Big Sky member Northern Colorado, while losing to New Mexico State of the WAC.  UND also enters the game at 2-1 on the year.  The game will be televised on Big Sky TV.  Game time is set for 8:05pm Central Time.

An interesting stat from last year, per the UND weekly press release, UND and Sacramento State had three common opponents on their respective 2011 schedules. UND went 3-0 on the road against Southern Utah, UC Davis and Northern Colorado, while the Hornets went just
1-2 against that trio.  Both teams beat the Bears, while the Hornets
went 0-2 against Great West foes.

UND Defense vs. Sacramento State Offense

The Hornet offense comes in to the game averaging 26 pts/game and 404 yds of overall offense.  267 of those yds comes through the air meaning they prefer to throw the ball to achieve success by about a 2:1 margin.  UND fans can expect to see a spread offense, 3-4 receiver sets – they are very similar to what UND is doing this year.  They like to throw screens to the wide receivers to allow them to work in space and the running game read-handoff based.

QB #12 Garret Safron is having an outstanding season for the Hornets thus far.  He has thrown for 802 yds an 6 TDs while completing 62% of his passes.  Safron is 6’1″-195, very similar to UND’s Marcus Hendrickson, and will run like Hendrickson does too as he has 99 yds rushing on the season.  He will be a guy UND has to get to on Saturday.  UND had multiple chance for sacks last week vs. SDSU but missed them – those plays will need to be made this week vs. Safron.  The pass protection for Safron appears to be solid as they have only given up 3 sacks on the season.  Some of that has to do with the nature of their offense but they still must be doing something right up front.  Definitely a big challenge for the UND defense.

Safron’s favorite target is #13 Morris Norrise, a 5’11”-180lb junior.  Norrise has caught 18 balls for 254 yds and a TD on the year.  He is a guys that seems to have good quickness and speed and will need to be limited for UND to have success.

Defensive keys to the game:

  1. Tackling.  UND’s tackling has been sub-par thus far and must improve immediately.  Sacramento State likes to throw short, quick routes that rely on their WR beating defender in a one-on-one situation.  If the UND defenders can come up and make those plays UND should win the football game.
  2. The UND secondary must eliminate all coverage lapses that plagued them last week vs. SDSU.  Far too many receivers were crossing the field wide open due to breakdowns in the secondary.
  3. Early 3 and outs – build confidence and set the tone defensively.

UND Offense vs. Sacramento State Defense

UND will be facing another aggressive, blitzing defense that has shown a lot of man-to-man coverages with help over the top in Cover 1 or ‘zero’ looks.  The Hornet defense is led by DL Todd Davis and DBs Ryan McMahon and Robert Beale. They like to line up in 4-man front’s and will walk down a LB to the line of scrimmage.  Their personnel is very athletic from what we have seen on TV against the Colorado Buffaloes.  The Sac St. defense is giving up an average of 31 pts/game.

If Sacramento decides to do some of the same stuff up front against certain personnel groupings (running), UND should have a lot of 1-on-1 matchups on the outside.  We have a hard time believing they will do that, based on what they have seen on film from UND through 3 weeks.  They may get a little more conservative defensively with play-calling and take their chances in zone coverage in order to stop the UND run game and keep everything in front of them.  The first quarter will be interesting to see how they defend the UND offense.

The UND offensive line has a chip on its shoulder right now and will want to show and prove they are better than they have shown the last couple of weeks against top-end competition on the defensive line.  Jake Miller needs to get going early and often to help Hendrickson and the UND passing game.

Offensive Keys to the Game:

  1. Get off to a fast start – make Sacramento play from behind.
  2. Establish an effective running game early.
  3. Execute short 3rd down passing game.  If they are running the ball consistently, they may face many 3rd and short scenarios to extend drives.  Marcus Hendrickson’s legs could again be a huge factor in these situations.


When making a prediction on a UND game in 2012, one has to try and figure out how the defense matches up with the opposing offense.  The UND offense has shown they can score on most teams they will face.  This week Sac State presents a spread offense that is similar to a “basketball-on grass” look where they pass it quickly and try to out-athleticize you on the perimeter.  We feel that UND should be able to match up with these receivers and having CB Daryl Brown back will make a huge difference.

UND 38

Sac State 31

2 Responses

  1. firg voss reporting

    think jer will see the field much sat? as valuable as d brown is to our secondary i would like him NOT to return kicks even though he was doing great at it…let jer do it and get him some touches and confidence too…

    1. 100% agreed. Lets get Jer some touches and see if he can break it. Tough to crack the offensive lineup right now but special teams may be the way to go for him.

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