UND went out to Pocatello, ID and did what they needed to do to win a football game on Saturday, beating Idaho State 28-25. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t clean, but they won a game they desperately needed on the road in Big Sky play. We’ll take it and we’re sure they will also. It was a unique game in that UND was able to do some things that they have not been able to yet this year.
- We wanted to see the running game build off their performance in the MSU game and they did alright. Jake Miller rushed 17 times for 70 yds and the team ran for 140 overall. Not great but they were able to move the ball on the ground at times. Miller also passed the 2,000 yard mark for his career. The senior from Bismarck High School has been a steady performer back there for UND and that is an impressive achievement for him.
- UND was able to re-discover their All-American WR Greg Hardin on Saturday. After getting shutout by MSU the week before Hardin broke out on Saturday with 8 catches for 126 yds. They got it to him in a variety of ways, which is what we hoped for. Hardin also became the all-time regular season receiving leader in UND history with 2,978 yards, passing Weston Dressler. Two pretty special receivers at the top of the list.
- Speaking of Hardin, he broke another kick return for a TD – this time a 99-yarder. Hardin showed excellent vision and speed on the return, changing field a couple times then outrunning the defenders who had angles on him. We challenged the kick return unit and they responded.
- UND had 14 penalties for 121 yards. That is ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is the fact that 5 of them were 15 yard personal fouls. One a game is not uncommon, but five?
- Once again freshman punter Mitch Meindel showed his athleticism by taking off after scooping up a bad snap. He could have punted it but saw open field after recovering the snap and he took off down the sideline for a 24 yard gain. Meindel was a good wide receiver in high school.
- Tackling in space was much, much better this week. Not a whole lot of YAC for ISU, which they live off of.
- Got to give credit where credit is due: Corner Chavon Mackey came up with 2 pass breakups and 2 INT’s, the first two of the season for UND. The second one was textbook coverage, intercepting the ball in the end zone and thwarting an ISU drive. Mackey was moved to corner for this game because freshman Cam Kuksa was inserted into the starting lineup at free safety. Looks like a great move by DC Kotelnicki.
- Speaking of Kuksa – he had a great game, in our opinion. The kid is an assassin out there, trying to hit anything that moves. He got a 15 yard penalty for a late hit across the middle but in all honestly we loved it. The aggressiveness he shows is a breath of fresh air, so to speak, and we can live with a penalty like that. He also laid out a receiver along the sideline to break up a fade route. Kuksa is going to be a nice player and it was a great move to start him. He will take his lumps but he is also going to hand out plenty to opposing receivers. However, eventually he will need to learn how to play smart along with his physicality.
- The clear-cut defensive player of the game in our eyes was OLB Dayo Idowu. He had a monster game for UND with 5 tackles (3 for loss), 1 INT (which was excellent coverage by him), a forced fumble on the option play where he batted down the pitch which led to Ben Peters recovering in the end zone for a TD (UND’s first defensive TD this year) and a pass breakup. Idowu is starting to show football smarts and instincts to go with his athleticism. He came in as a safety prospect and it looks like he is finally settling in and getting comfortable at the OLB spot. UND needs guys like Idowu to step up and take over games. They don’t win the game without his effort on Saturday (to be fair, Fritz called Idowu his “breakout player” on defense this year).
- OLB Dom Bennett caused problems off the edge with his speed rush and was constantly in the backfield against an underwhelming ISU o-line. Specifically, the right tackle for ISU had difficulties with the speed rush. Bennett had a good game.
- ISU ran 87 plays to UND’s 63. The defense absolutely has to get off the field at a better rate. In their defense, ISU threw the ball 66 times making the game last longer.
- First Downs: ISU 27 UND 17. That is unacceptable. UND should have been able to do more on offense, much more.
- UND won the turnover battle 4-3. They had 3 intereceptions and a fumble recovery.
- QB Joe Mollberg’s 2 interceptions were deplorable – but were freshman mistakes that are/were correctable.
- Perspective: This is a game that was much closer than we expected it to be. It’s a win, but UND needs to play better against a team like Idaho State and take control of the game. Reality sets back in this week when offensive juggernaut #6 Eastern Washington comes to town for the first time. As everyone knows, earlier this year they went to Corvallis, Oregon and handed Pac-12 member Oregon State their only loss of the season thus far.
We welcome any comments on the game, our thoughts, anything. Would love to hear where you guys are at with this win.