- Total Plays: UND 75 EWU 65
- 1st Downs: UND 22 EWU 18
- Passing Yards: UND 355 EWU 307
- Total Yards: UND 406 EWU 408
- Time of Possession: UND 29:28 EWU 30:32
One might think that by looking at those stats that this game would have been close on the scoreboard. That is, until you bring this important stat into play:
- Turnovers: UND 4 EWU 0
UND ended up losing 35-14. Two of the UND turnovers were drive killers in EWU territory as UND was going in to put points on the board. The Mollberg interception return for a TD was a back-breaker. With the score at 21-14, once again, the freshman QB tried to force a throw into double coverage when he shouldn’t have. On 3rd and 22 from the EWU 36, the always active Ronnie Hamlin returned the interception 77 yards for a TD. Mollberg was pressured and forced to move when he made the throw under duress and was just trying to make a play. He has to be smarter in that situation. The odds of getting all 22 yards for the 1st down there are slim. Just take the open shallow crosser route for 8-10 yards and bring on Zeb Miller to try make the game 21-17. He will learn these things but in the meantime they are turning out to be huge game changing decisions.
- While the running game was less than successful overall, we really liked the patience, conviction and discipline shown by OC Luke Schleusner with playcalling. After factoring in five sacks, UND finished the game with only 51 net yards rushing on 30 carries, but the overall tempo of the game was set by UND based on that alone, in our opinion. This allowed UND to be in the game into the end of the 3rd quarter and early 4th, before the ‘pick 6’.
- In our opinion, the play of the UND offensive tackles was particularly bad on Saturday. They got beat plenty off the edge against the EWU defensive ends and OLBs. To compound that, we noticed a couple times where Mollberg ran to pressure instead of staying in the pocket and/or stepping up to avoid it.
- Before we harp on the negatives, we need to recognize that Mollberg had a heck of a day statistically. He ended the game 33-45 (73%) for 355 yards, but had no TDs. He made some nice throws and showed some solid decision making at times. We have to remember he is a freshman. This is his first year playing and a lot has been put on his shoulders.
- Mollberg underthrew Greg Hardin on a fade route down the UND sideline. If he hits him in stride, its a long TD pass that swings momentum. Instead, it ended up just being an incomplete pass and an unimportant stat on the sheet. Have to connect on those opportunities.
- Many times, even on the completed passses, Mollberg threw the ball high or behind the receivers. The time it takes for them to adjust and turn their bodies or jump in the air is the difference between them being able to turn their heads and look upfield and try make someone miss, or being tackled immediately after the catch by the defenders. Joe needs to start putting some of those ‘easier’ throws on their numbers so the wideouts can try produce more yards after the catch.
- We’d like to see more ‘zone read’ plays. Either they are calling the play in the huddle as a handoff to the RB on inside zone, or Mollberg is badly misreading the defensive end on the line of scrimmage. A couple times it was obvious that Mollberg should have kept the ball if a ‘read’ was called. Let him keep it and see what he can do running. He ran the ball extremely well in high school and has it in him to do so.
- Defensively, UND held EWU to over 100 yards under their average for the season, giving up 408 total yards. The last two weeks we have definitely seen a difference in the overall play and demeanor of the defense. They are tackling better, covering a bit better, and holding the line better.
- The UND front seven played by far their best game of the year. EWU had 101 yards rushing on 35 attempts and struggled to run the ball most of the game. Their longest run of the game was 19 yards. Major improvement there. Having Seth Stanchik and Will Ratelle back has made a difference. Even with OLB Cordero Finley out, the front looked stout. Grand Forks Red River High School product Alex Hickel has done a nice job stepping in for Finley.
- Best move DC Josh Kotelnicki has made this year is starting true freshman Cam Kuksa at safety. The way he flies around is awesome and can be contagious to the entire defense. One play in the 2nd quarter he came flying into the picture and knocked the helmet off the receiver with a huge hit. Reckless abandon and we love it. Coincidence that the defense looks totally different since he was inserted into starting lineup? Perhaps.
- UND was tough on the goal line again, like the old days. They forced EWU to fourth down after three straight stops from the one yard line. EWU got in on 4th down but it was great to see them build the wall on the goal line.
- Yes, UND gave up 28 points on defense and that is not good enough to beat Top 10 FCS teams. Considering EWU is known as one of the best offenses in the entire country, we will take it as an improvement overall, especially after the UM and MSU beatdowns. This is the same Eastern Washington offense that went into Corvallis, Oregon and put up 49 points and 625 yards of offense in their victory over Pac-12 opponent Oregon State, who now sits at 5-1. Improvement is being shown and that all is we can ask for at this point. If UND continues to improve on defense they will win 3-4 more games. Now the offense needs to show that same improvement.