The 3-2 Eastern Washington Eagles visit the Alerus Center for the 1st time ever in a Big Sky Conference tilt. They are coming off a 41-19 win over Weber State last week. Kickoff is at 2:35 CST. The game will be televised on Midco Sports Net and also on Directv 626.
UND Offense vs EWU Defense
Offensively, UND will have to try keep up with the pace of EWU. Joe Mollberg will have to play smart football and not turn the ball over. A respectable running game will help control the clock and keep the EWU offense off the field. This is a very athletic and talented EWU defense. They have given up a lot of points, but when you look at who they have played against, it’s somewhat excusable. Oregon State (49 pts), Toledo (33 pts) and Sam Houston St. (49 pts) are all explosive, big-time offenses. The Eagle defense is a ‘hybrid’ in terms of the fronts they show – they line up in both 3 and 4 man fronts pretty consistently.
The UND offense will need to be patient and stay within themselves. If they get down early, they cannot panic and start chucking the ball deep. They will need to stick to with whatever their gameplan may be, sustain drives, chew up clock and not turn the ball over – yes, easier said than done. This will be the challenge in playcalling for OC Luke Schleusner and in execution for QB Joe Mollberg. Mollberg cannot afford 2 awful interceptions this week like he did last week in Pocatello.
This EWU defense has seen WR groups that are no doubt more talented than UND’s. They will not be intimidated by them, specifically after how they handled this same group last year in Cheney in the 55-17 beatdown. The UND wideouts need to just take what the secondary gives them and make the plays they are presented with. No drops.
The offensive line needs to step up and play better than they have, both in the running game and in pass protection. It’s the 6th game of the year and the o-line has now had plenty of time to ‘gel’.
UND Defense vs EWU Offense
Things certainly don’t get easier this week for the much-maligned UND defense. They played their best game of the year by far last week vs. Idaho State, which is encouraging, but things will be a bit harder on Saturday. Much, much harder. Eastern Washington comes to Grand Forks with one of the most prolific offenses in all of FCS. EWU is perennially an offensive juggernaut and this year is no different. Thus far in 2013, the Eagles are averaging 38 pts/game. Might sound underwhelming based on my previous comments but one must remember they have played Oregon State, Toledo, and Sam Houston State to begin the year. By the way, they handed Oregon State (4-1) their only loss of the year to this point in the season opener 49-46. As far as total offense goes, EWU is averaging 518 yds/game, which ranks them 5th in the country.
The Eagles run a spread/pistol offense that employs 4 receivers a good portion of the time. They like to spread you out and run the ball behind their experienced offensive line, while also employing play-action once the ground game is established. EWU has actually ran the ball more than they have passed it meaning their running game is even more dangerous than their passing attack.
The man at the controls for the Eagles is #3 sophomore Vernon Adams. Adams is one of the top QB’s in the country and is the definition of “dual-threat”. On the year Adams is 97-149 for 1,584 yds and 19 TDs vs. only 5 Ints. Adams is also the team’s leading rusher with 50 runs for 255 yds and 3 TD’s. Adams has a great arm and good speed to go with it. We feel is he is comparable to MSU QB Denarius McGhee but is much more of a threat in the running game.
Adams favorite targets in the passing game are #15 Ashton Clark and #10 Cooper Kupp. Clark has 26 catches for 446 yards and 4 TD’s. Kupp has 20 catches for 418 yds and 7 TD’s. Kupp is the bigger of the receivers at 6’2” and poses matchup problems for most corners he faces. We have to remember that what EWU is doing in the passing game this year is pretty impressive considering they lost 3 receivers to the NFL last year (Kaufman, Edwards, Herd).
Now, after watching the Montana and Montana State games we are asking ourselves, “How in the heck is UND going to slow down Eastern Washington?” Do you send pressure like they tried vs. SDSU and Montana or do you sit back and try and react up and tackle? With the way Adams can beat you running the ball we are leaning to sitting back and hoping that EWU will have to resort to underneath throws and the running game vs. longer passes that are only defended one-one-one. Of course, this will call for UND to tackle well and that has been a major issue the past couple years. But, if they can make key tackles on third down and play assignment football, there is a chance they can slow down EWU enough to try and and let their offense keep them in it. If not, it could get ugly, giving UND fans flashbacks of the Griz game…or the Bobcat game. Take your pick.
We try to be objective while also recognizing that we are homers because we admittedly love UND. This is a week where we need to be objective and refer back to our old line that used earlier this year – “we cannot pick UND until they show us they can actually win one of these games vs. a Top 10 team”. This is the fourth ‘ranked’ team in a row to visit the Alerus Center and as great as that sounds from a scheduling/fan standpoint, the reality is that it has been a nightmare for the UND football team thus far. Having all these upper-echelon FCS teams as your home games is turning out to be a negative because now the “winnable” games are all on the road. Before the season we thought UND might be able to pick off one of these games and then win the other home games and possibly get to that 6-7 win plateau. Well, that goal appears to be difficult to obtain now. From a talent standpoint EWU is very similar to the Griz and Bobcats, unfortunately.
Eastern Washington 52
North Dakota 27