In about 10 hours the 2013 football season will be officially underway for the University of North Dakota football team. UND takes on Pioneer Conference member Valparaiso University, located in Valparaiso, IN, at 7pm at the Alerus Center. The game will be televised on Midco Sports Network, DirecTV 623, and Big Sky TV.
Valparaiso is coming off a 1-10 campaign last season and are picked to finish 10th in the Pioneer League this season. There is reason for optimism for Head Coach Dale Carlson’s Crusaders as they return 18 starters (9 offense, 9 defense). Much of the roster was young last season but gained valuable experience that they are counting on in 2013.
UND Defense vs. Valparaiso Offense
The Valpo offense is a spread/read-option type of offense. They usually employ 3 or 4 receivers and have one RB next to the QB. Last season they threw alot of short, quick passes to try and move the ball, along with the typical read hand-off/keeper. In 2012, the Valpo offense averaged 335 total yds (116 rushing – 217 passing) but only 18 points/game.
The offense is led by senior QB #19 Eric Hoffman, who last season was 230-351 for 1,930 yds and 9TD – 9 Ints. Hoffman, 6’4″-215, likes to use his height advantage to see over the line and distribute the ball on short routes to his WR’s. He does not throw alot of long, down the field passes so the UND secondary will need to tighten up their coverage and be sound on their assignments to cover the underneath short stuff. Hoffman does have talent as evidenced last season when he went 34-55 for 284 yds and 2 TD’s vs. San Diego, the premier team in the PL.
The guy that Valpo wants to carry the load in 2013 is All-Pioneer League RB #49 Jake Hutson. Hutson, 5’7″-170, had 753 yds and 8 TD’s in 2012. He is a stout, shifty runner who can make guys miss. Hutson should be UND’s main concern on Thursday night as they will give him the ball more than his share to try and grind it out and keep the UND offense off the field.
WR Tanner Curamata is the main receiving threat for the Crusaders. In 2012, Curamata, 6′-1″-185, had 218 yds receiving and 3 TD’s.
Defensive Keys to the Game:
- Tackle. Tackle. Tackle. For any UND fan who watched last season’s defensive shortcomings in the tackling part, this explains itself. Valpo is going to throw short and try to make you miss to gain their yards-after-catch (YAC).
- UND is the better team in this game. Line up correctly, make the right checks, cover the right gaps, cover the right receivers.
UND Offense vs. Valparaiso Defense
Valparaiso will primarily run a 3-4 defensive scheme this year according to game notes, etc. Last season they ran a 4-3 scheme. From what little footage we could gather they appear to play a whole lot of Cover 2 over the top and like to keep things in front of them. They are certainly smallish along the defensive line, going 240, 245, and 240.
To say the Valpo defense struggled last year is an understatement. In 2012, they gave up 45 pts/game and 542 total yds/game in the non-scholarship Pioneer League. Their secondary only came up with three interception the entire year but the defense did force 12 fumbles.
#22 Alex Grask appears to be their best defensive player. The senior safety led the team in tackles with 113 and also recovered 3 fumbles. We know somebody has to lead your team in tackles but its never good when a safety is that person (coincidentally, UND’s leading tackler in 2012 was safety Baylee Carr and their defense also struggled).
When combining all of these factors together we fully expect UND to have their fair share of success on offense. Even though UND ran the ball alot in fall camp we still think they will throw it around early to try and get their heart started and get freshman QB Ryan Bartels settled in. The easy thing to do would be run the ball and try and get that established. We are seeing more of a 50/50 game plan.
Valparaiso is a non-scholarship football program that has struggled mightily in recent years. They simply don’t have the players to compete a full four quarters with full-funded FCS programs. UND should come out and exert their will on them offensively and defensively. Our major area of concern is special teams with all of the freshman playing key parts this year – Meindel punting and Larson snapping. That is an area we will be paying very close attention to in this game. Any sign of special teams weakness will be picked up on by future opponents.