After a lopsided defeat to Montana State University, UND (4-5) heads back home to take on the Southern Utah Thunderbirds in what is the final home game of the season for UND. SUU (4-5) is coming off arguably their biggest win in school history as they took down the #1 ranked Eastern Washington Eagles 30-27 on a last second FG. Game time is set for 1pm at the Alerus Center and will be televised on Midcontinent and also through Big Sky TV.
UND Defense vs. SUU Offense
The wide-open SUU offense is led by future NFL QB Brad Sorenson. The 6’5″ senior is throwing for 283 yds/game and has 19 TD’s vs. 9 INT’s thus far. Sorenson operates out of the shotgun most of the game and the SUU offense implements a 4 or 5 receiver set for the majority of the time. They like to spread you out and hit underneath crossers and try to gain yardage after the catch vs. through the air. Their main running play appears to be the zone-read handoff to #40 Brian Wilson, who has 124 carries for 542 yds and 1 TD on the season. UND is sure to see a steady diet of Wilson on Saturday since they have not shown any ability to stop the run this year.
Sorenson’s main target in the passing game is WR Fatu Moala. On the year Moala (6’2″) has 55 catches for 577 yds and 7 TD’s. He appears to be cut of the mold of past SUU slot receivers that were quick and ran excellent routes. Sorenson’s big target is #13 Mitch Jessop (6’4″), who has 33 catches for 519 and 3 TD’s. They both appear to have the ability to break one at any time and could give the much-maligned UND secondary fits on Saturday.
We have noticed that a few teams start the game doing the opposite of what they are known for when they play UND. That leads us to believe SUU will try to get the running game going early to tighten up the UND linebackers. They then will begin to fire up their prolific passing game.
Defensive Keys to Game:
- Tackling. Have we ever said this before? With all the crossing routes and pick routes that SUU likes to run it is going to be imperative that UND tackles well after the catch. SUU lives off YAC (yards after catch) and tackling or lack-there-of will be a major factor in this game.
- Pressure from front 7. SUU has given up 32 sacks on the season in 9 games, almost 4 per game. The opportunities are going to be there but UND must be able to bring the burly Sorenson down once they do get home.
UND Offense vs. Southern Utah Defense
The UND offense looks to bounce back after last week’s trouncing at the hands of the front 7 of Montana State. This week, Southern Utah brings another 4-3 defense and primarily 2-high looks with cover 2 and cover 4 being the predominant coverages. The Thunderbird defense enters the game allowing an average of 30.1 points and 442 yards per game – 264 of that is through the air. UND should be able to have a balanced gameplan with the run and pass this week and the offense should hopefully get back on track. The SUU defense is led by #35 linebacker Zak Browning.
The biggest question will be whether or not UND can protect the QB this week. After seeing last week’s film, SUU may bring a blitzing bonanza to the Alerus in hopes of disrupting the offensive flow like Montana State had success doing – the pass protection was deplorable last week and needs to improve. O-line play in general has deteriorated during the 2nd half of the season. Time to see what the 0-line is made of mentally – how do they respond this week?
We also think the running game is put back in play this week and will be a big factor in the game on Saturday. The offense will need to be able to control the flow of the game and hopefully the clock with a goal of keeping the Southern Utah offense off the field. Playing at The Alerus has seemed to give the UND offense a noticeable advantage in confidence and success or otherwise.
Offensive keys to the game:
1. Run the ball early and with success
2. Protect in the passing game – help with TEs and RBs if need be by ‘max protecting’
3. Control the flow of the game
One thing has become clear as the 2012 Big Sky season has unfolded: UND has beaten the teams they should have and lost to the teams that were predicted to be better than them. They have beaten Sac State, Portland State, and Montana. All middle of the pack teams. They have lost to Eastern Washington, Northern Arizona, Montana State, and Cal-Poly – the top four teams in the Big Sky and all potential playoff teams. Southern Utah falls in the first group.
North Dakota 37
Southern Utah 34