In what has turned into an extremely important game for both teams, the 3-1 UND football team returns home on Saturday to take on the 3-0 #23 ranked Cal-Poly Mustangs at 6:05 central time. The winner will move to 2-0 in the conference and also notch an important victory on their playoff resume.
Cal-Poly comes in to the game off a 28-20 victory over their main rival UC-Davis. The week before that they upset FBS member Wyoming 24-22. Being Poly has arguably the easiest schedule in the Big Sky Conference with not having to play Montana or Montana State, UND needs to win this game to give Poly a loss and give UND the head-to-head tie breaker, if they are lucky enough to be in that position later this year.
UND Defense vs. Cal-Poly Offense
Once again the Mustangs will show up to the Alerus Center with a high-powered rushing attack. They are averaging an astounding 328 yds/game on the ground! Their triple-option offense appears to have been slight tweaked this year and they are running it out of the Pistol a fair amount of time. They also are not utilizing their fullback much at all, which is a staple of a true triple option scheme. In the past they ran bruising running back Mark Romanelli on FB dives and would batter defenses with it as allowed. This year they appear to want to get to the perimeter and make it a foot-race around the corner.
#3 QB Andre Broadus (cousin of Snoop Dogg) is back to lead the Mustang triple-option attack against UND. Broadus run their offense flawlessly and is a major headache for the opposing defensive coordinator. On the year he is their 3rd leading rusher with 147 yds and 2 TD’s and has thrown for 237 yds and 3 TD’s.
The guy UND needs to be most worried about is RB #10 Deonte Williams. He is the leading rusher in the Big Sky Conference and is 3rd in all of FCS with 484 yards and 3 TD’s in three games. He possesses excellent speed and quickness, much like the last 3 RB’s that UND just went against. UND will have to be good with angles at the point of attack because Williams can get around the corner very quickly after a pitch from Broadus.
An over-looked part of the offense is Broadus’s ability to hit the big passing play when its called. They hurt UND with several long passes and dropped a couple others that they easily could have had. The UND secondary will need to be careful to not get caught peeking in the backfield as the play fake is going on.
Defensive Keys to the Game:
- Executing your assignment. Against the triple-option, a team must delegate responsibilities to each player and those need to be taken care each and every play or the Mustangs will break a long one.
- Outside Linebacker play. The UND OLB’s need to make plays off the end of the line of scrimmage as they will most likely be taking the QB vs. the option or shooting out to the pitch.
- One-on-One tackling. UND will try to have a guy matched up with each Poly offensive back and the players must make the tackle when they have the chance. With the amount of cutting that Poly does, there will be times when UND will not be able to flow to the ball like they want, making tackling extremely important this week.
UND Offense vs. Cal-Poly Defense
Poly once again brings in a 4-3 defensive alignment with a lot of cover 2 and cover 4 looks in the secondary. They have been strong defensively so far this season in averaging only 101 yards rushing/game, 287 yards total/game and 18.7 points/game. They are led defensively by senior linebacker Kennith Jackson, who has earned many preseason accolades.
The UND offense will once again have to be patient in taking what the Poly defense gives with their zone coverages. The book is out on the explosiveness of UND’s offense so we don’t expect them to see a whole lot of man coverages like Portland State showed in week 2. Because of the Poly defensive looks, the UND running game will once again be the key to game like it was last weekend in Sacramento. If they sit back in cover 2 in order to prevent the big play, running the ball will be paramount. The Hogs will be called upon again to lean on the defensive front and wear them down going into the 4th quarter. Mitch Sutton should have another good game between the tackles in the power running game with Jake Miller and Jer Garman accenting the outside running attack.
All indications point to Marcus Hendrickson starting the game, but if Braden Hanson is healthy and ready to go, we wouldn’t be surprised to see him taking a few series of snaps to shake off any rust that there might be since his injury in week 1. Both will be counted on to find holes in the zone coverages and execute accordingly, as well as connecting on the deep shots they do take when needed. We also hope to see improvement by the running backs in the pass protection that was noticeably below average last week.
Offensive keys to the game:
- Run the ball effectively early and make Poly bring a man down into the box to stop the running game. This will open up the intermediate and deep passing game.
- Move the chains: While scoring on every possession would be nice, it’s not realistic in Big Sky play. At minimum, UND needs to move the chains each drive in order give the UND defense a breather and keep the Poly offense off the field. The Poly offense is known for sustaining long drives with its triple option attack, which always wears down a defense. 3 and outs are a killer.
- Get Kenny Golladay involved early in the offense to take pressure off of UND’s top 3 WRs. Him being a threat in the passing game will affect opposing defenses and their preparation each week.
- NO DROPPED PASSES. Zero.
It goes without saying this is the biggest game UND has hosted since the transition to Division I. When you look at the matchups on paper it appears that Poly’s offense has the advantage when they have the ball and the UND offense has the advantage when they have the ball. However, the way the UND offense has been playing and the re-emergence of the running game will allow UND to win this football game. Recent history shows the games between these 2 teams are always close. UND has lost the last 2 meetings by a combined 5 points. We feel UND avenges last year’s homecoming loss at The Alerus tomorrow.