The UND Football team heads out to Cheney, WA this Saturday to take on the #7 ranked Eastern Washington Eagles. EWU sits at 3-1 on the year while UND fell to 3-2 after last weeks loss to Cal-Poly. The game will be televised on Big Sky TV and on many local outlets around Washington. Gametime is set for 7:05pm central time.
EWU’s only loss on the season was a tough 24-20 loss to Pac-10 member Washington State. They beat FBS Idaho 20-3 and also beat Montana last week 32-26 with a remarkable comeback at the end of the game. This is by far the best FCS team that UND has played since their move to Division 1 and will provide a true benchmark to where UND is at in the Big Sky.
UND Defense vs. Eastern Washington Offense
The Eagle offense enters the game averaging 26 pts/game and 450 total yds/game, with 309 of those coming through the air. 26 points doesn’t seem too scary until you look at their schedule and offensive history. They have played two FBS teams and Montana in their first four games, meaning these numbers will be much greater once they play lower end teams. EWU is perenially an explosive passing offense and this year appears to be no different.
The Eagle offense is very similar to UND’s in terms of formations and overall sheme. They like to line up in 3 and 4 receiver sets but then will come out with two tight ends and try to run the ball or max protect and throw it up to their elite receiving corps. EWU has run the ball almost as much as they have thrown it. However, they have thrown for twice as many passing yards as rushing yards. This tells us they try to run the ball to keep a team honest but know their bread is buttered – through the air.
Freshman quarterback Vernon Adams (6′-0″-180) has taken over the starting job from SMU transfer Kyle Padron. While Padron was more of a pocket passer, Adams is a true dual-threat type QB and will run if pressured. On the year Adams has gone 32-53 for 428 yds and 3 TD’s. He has also rushed for 124 yards.
The main guy UND needs to worry about is all-everything Junior WR Brandon Kaufman. Kaufman has 559 yards and 5 TD’s in only 5 games this year. Oh, we almost forgot, he is 6′-5″ – 220. And it appears to be a legit 6′-5″. He is a red-zone nightmare for all teams and that will not change this week. The post route is a popular one for Kaufman and once he gets inside position on a corner it is essentially over. The UND corners must try and stay inside him when he is trying to get that position on them.
Thankfully for the UND defense, EWU does not run the ball very well. That doesn’t mean they won’t get some yards but UND’s first order of business has to be try and slow down the EWU passing game. They won’t stop it but they have to try and make plays on third down to get off the field. EWU is 43% on third down meaning UND has their work cut out for them to bring that number down.
The UND defense must figure out a way to generate pressure this week. They only have 7 sacks on the season in five games, which is not nearly enough. They must find a way to flush Adams and make him scramble so he cannot consistently find his talented receivers. One of those receivers, Nicholas Edwards, has been hurt and we have not heard if he is playing yet. If he does come back this week, that adds another 6′-3″ target for Adams and makes UND’s job much harder. Pressure on the quarterback is essential this week. The UND secondary is not good enough to simply sit back and cover.
UND Offense vs. Eastern Washington Defense
Eastern brings a 4-man front on defense and is predominantly a ’2-high’ look in the secondary with cover 2. They obviously will send 6 from time to time and blitz based on down and distance. The Eagle defense is allowing 19.8 points, 207 rushing yards, 192 passing yards and 399.2 total yards per game. They are led by Junior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin.
This is a game that we will find out a lot about the UND offense and what they are truly made of. Because of injuries in the EWU secondary, UND should be able to pass the ball very effectively and move the chains against them. They also have been prone to giving up a lot of rushing yards so far this season – we hope this week is no different.
So, if the running game and passing game is there to be had, UND should put up some good numbers this weekend if they just execute. Yardage and points should be many. In fact, UND may need to score 40 in order to win this game. We feel they are more than capable of doing it with their talent on offense against the Eastern Washington defense. Again, it comes down to Marcus Hendrickson and the offensive line executing…….and the UND wide receivers NOT dropping balls. The X-factor could be the insertion of Braden Hanson at the QB spot if Hendrickson has a slow start. Definitely a reason to watch this game.
This game is looking more and more like a shootout every day. The weather is going to be pretty good, with it being in the mid 60′s and little wind. Both defenses have been gashed at various times this season and we do not see that changing this Saturday. UND needs to get the ground game going to control the pace and keep the EWU offense off the field. If they can do that it will be a down-to-the wire game. If they need to rely on the their passing game they could be in trouble.
The UND corners absolutely need to tackle well this week on the perimeter. EWU is known for getting the ball out quick to their big wideouts on the edge and letting them make plays and break tackles. Last week, the Montana corners did a great job of coming up and tackling for the most part. The UND corners will need to do the same – just grab hold of an ankle and wait for the pursuit of the UND defense to finish it off.
We feel this game will come down to the UND defense and how they perform. Can they come up with a handful of stops during the course of the game? We hope so…..and we hope we are wrong on our prediction here. We will be cheering for us to be wrong on Saturday.
Eastern Washington 38
North Dakota 33