Now that the 2012 season if officially over for UND we figured we would throw out some thoughts on what transpired and apply grades to some aspects of the team as we saw it. Let us repeat – as WE saw it.
- UND Offense: (B) The offense ranked 3rd in the Big Sky with 33.5 pts/game. The stat that helped them achieve that was red-zone efficiency, where UND ranked 2nd in the Big Sky Conference. On the season they averaged 430 yds/game with 297 of that coming through the air. They disappeared in the 2 biggest conference games of the year at EWU and Montana St, which was very disappointing. The running game took a step backward from 2011 and needs to get much better in 2013. Overall, a big improvement offensively, however, compared to 2011. The building blocks are there for offensive success in the Big Sky in the near future.
- UND Offensive Line: (B-) The pass protection was decent for most of the season. Many times the running backs failed to pick up or execute their assignment in pass pro. Montana State got after QB Braden Hanson and really physically abused the UND OL but other than that they held their own pretty well throughout the season. The OL loses seniors Ian McGurran, Caleb Gillson, and Emmett Lynch who were all major contributors along the offensive line for the past 3-4 years. McGurran quarterbacked the OL and started all four years at UND and will be hard to replace. Freshman OG Brandon Anderson has a very bright future.
- UND QBs: (A-) The addition of record breaking Sr. QB Braden Hanson was a big one for the 2012 UND offense. The transfer from North Carolina really blossomed in the pass-happy offense that OC Greg Breitbach installed. Hanson broke the UND and Big Sky record for most passing yards in a single game with 660. He ended the season with 1,964 yds and 15 TDs vs. 7 INT’s in only 6 games started. Fellow Sr. QB Marcus Hendrickson really came into his own once given the opportunity early in the first game when Hanson got injured. Hendrickson ended the season with 1,504 yds and also had 15 TD’s vs. 3 INT’s. Interesting statistic: Hanson QB Rating: 153.2 -Hendrickson QB Rating: 152. Both had outstanding seasons overall. We really believe that because of the weapons at WR, the next UND QB should be able to pick up where Braden Hanson and Marcus Hendrickson left off in the passing game. Both had outstanding seasons overall. Bring on the Mollberg/Bartels era.
- UND RBs: (D) For the majority of the season the UND running game was non-existent. It seemed in the preseason that an emphasis was going to be put on running the ball and getting back to their roots as an offense. Except for one game where they gashed the Sacramento St. defense for 294 yds, the running game never dominated or really took over a game. The next highest total was 143 yds vs. EWU (we are not counting Mines). The loss of OG Joe Kleason early in camp was a big part of the problem but it still should have been able to show flashes in some games. Senior Mitch Sutton ran admirably in his final season, ending with 467 yds and 11 TD’s. He was a true short yardage back and will need to be replaced next season. Jr. Jake Miller was never able to get on track after having a big sophomore season, ending with 580 yds and 2 TD’s.
- UND WRs: (A-) We would have given them an A+ but there were far too many drops on the season to do that. Jr. Greg Hardin ended the season as UND’s only All-Big Sky First Team selection. Hardin had 65 catches for 1,145 yds and 14 TD’s in 2012. He set UND and Big Sky records vs. Montana when he had 333 yds receiving. It was truly a dominant performance as he was pretty much un-coverable all game. Freshman WR Jameer Jackson had a breakout season for UND with 56 catches for 709 yds and 6 TD’s. He was a physical mismatch for most DB’s that he went against and showed good hands and body control when going up for the ball. Good news for UND fans in that Jackson has three seasons left. Jr. WR Blair Townsend (27-289-2) was the lunch pail guy in this group as he was the one who was counted on for big first downs at crucial times, like in the Montana game where he had big catch after big catch to keep the UND offense moving the chain in the second half. True Freshman WR Kenny Golladay (30-429-1) added a new dimension to the UND offense that has not been there in a long time – height. At 6’4″ he gave UND some mismatches out there and showed unbelievable hands and body control for a man his size. Jackson and Golladay should do some damage in the coming years for UND. All of the WR’s are back in 2013. We also look forward to the return of a healthy RJ McGill, who is vastly underrated in terms of his value to the WR corps as a whole and the passing game in general. He is definitely a catalyst and does all the little things well.
- UND TEs: (C) Seth Nichols was supposed to be a mismatch weapon in the passing game the last couple of years and that simply never materialized. Seth Wisthoff did what he was capable of doing in the run and pass game. Both graduate and UND will have fresh faces playing TE. If nothing else, the TEs need to be efficient blockers in this UND offense next season for pass protection and the running game.
- UND Defense: (D) The UND defense in 2012 was not what UND fans had come to expect after watching their defense dominate for so many years at the D2 level and at times during the transition. In 2012, the defense gave up 480 yds/game overall but when you take out the Mines game they actually gave up 514 yds/game. UND gave up 34.5 pts/game overall, but without the Mines game it was actually 38 pts/game. Obviously, that is completely foreign in these parts and is unacceptable. The numbers would have been worse if not for a somewhat stingy red-zone defense that ranked 3rd in the Big Sky Conference. Given it’s returning players and potential this year, this is probably the most disappointing position group of 2012. The lack of effectiveness on the defensive side of the ball was an all-around effort by all position groups.
- UND Defensive Line: (F) The run defense seemed to hit an all-time low as they were gashed almost every game, giving up 200+ yds eight times on the season. The primary responsibility for the 3 down lineman in the 3-4 is to hold their ground and absorb blockers for the 4 linebackers to make plays. This phase of the defense used to be a strength of the team during the transition but something went sorely wrong in 2012. Tackling overall was atrocious and can be directly tied to those rushing numbers. We never would have thought this would happen with seniors Ross Brenneman, Devin Benjamin, and Jay Nelson starting along the defensive line. Given the returning starters and potential for the defensive line group, they are probably the most disappointing position group for 2012. Next year’s group will definitely be less experienced and talented, but that doesn’t mean they can’t execute better.
- UND Linebackers: (C-) This group simply needs to make more plays moving forward, regardless of what’s happening up front. Too many missed tackles and opportunities for sacks and TFLs in the backfield. Cordero Finley and Dominique Bennett have underachieved so far at OLB and that position has to be better next season. We also need to see the ILBs start to overachieve and make more plays. Garrison Goodman has a chance to be a pretty player. Time for everyone in this position group to step up next season.
- UND Secondary: (D+) On the season UND gave up 28 passing TD’s, almost 3 per game on average. Opponents had a passer rating of 160.4 – 2nd to last in Big Sky play. These two numbers are both extremely high and are not good when combined with the rushing numbers allowed that we spoke of earlier. Overall cornerback play in pass coverage this year was awful. Tackling in the secondary, particularly by the corners on the edge, was also very poor. We are challenging them and their toughness for next year and hope to see vast improvements in that area. We gave the UND pass defense a D+ because they seemed to step up at times late in games, like vs. Montana and Southern Utah. As bad as they would play in the first half, they would play that well in the second half. They only had 8 INT’s on the season, however. That number needs to be in the 15-20 range when playing in the Big Sky. The chances are there, they just need to make plays.
- UND Special Teams: (B) Overall, we felt as though special teams play took a step backward this year, relative to last year’s success. They didn’t have the block kicks they have had in the past and we think execution in general was not as good as the year before. The punt return game specifically needs to be better next season. The good news is, the special teams units overall are still pretty good. The standards and expectations are high here because of the bar that has been set in previous years. In Big Sky Conference play, UND finished 1st in kickoff return avg; 2nd in punting average; 2nd in FG percentage (8-9); 6th in kickoff coverage; and 9th in punt return avg.
- Some other miscellaneous UND stats from Big Sky Conference play for the year:
– Scoring offense: 11th
– Scoring defense: 12th
– Total offense: 8th
– Total defense: 12th
– Rushing offense: 10th
– Rushing defense: 12th
– Pass offense: 4th
– Pass defense: 8th
– Sacks: 9th
– Sacks against: 9th
– Penalties: 1st (least penalized team in conference play)
– Turnover Margin: 10th (-4)
Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? Give us your thoughts…