It’s hard to believe, but we are officially at Week 9 of the season already. This season has not been nearly as fun as we hoped but it has flown by. UND comes into this week’s game vs. Northern Arizona with a 2-6 record and whole lot of question marks. On the flip side, #14 NAU enters the game with a 6-2 record and one more win will more than likely assure them of a playoff berth. Game time is set for 6:05 CT at the Walkup Skydome in Flagstaff, AZ.
The game will be televised by a host of channels. Fox Sports North, which most people in the upper midwest get (home of Twins, Wild, and T-Wolves) will have the game in HD, along with Fox Sport Arizona Plus and Fox College Sports Pacific.
UND Defense vs. NAU Offense
The NAU offense is not an overwhelming one statistically but they run the ball and control the clock very well. Look no further than their time of possession this season: 33 mins to 26 mins. They average 23 pts/game but somehow are 6-2. That tells us they run the ball, control the tempo, and play good defense. NAU runs a true Pro-style offense, utilizing a fullback and tight end most of the game. They will run two tight ends and a fullback at times, too. All of this is meant to gear up the running game by getting RB Zach Bauman the ball as much as possible.
We are concerned with one guy and one guy only this week: #34 RB Zach Bauman. Bauman is one of the all-time great RB’s in Big Sky history and has over 4,600 yards for his career. Thus far in 2013, Bauman already has 975 yards and 7 TD’s. He is a combination of speed and power while also possessing excellent vision. When there is a cutback lane, he finds it. This could be problematic for the UND defense as their have been way too many cut-back lanes this season.
QB Chase Cartwright has taken over the starting spot from starter Kyren Poe and by all accounts has done a nice job running the offense. On the year Cartwright is averaging 180 yds/game with 7 TDs and only 2 INTs. He appears to be a “game-manager” type of QB. Keep the offense flowing smoothly, hand it off to Bauman alot, and make the open throw. He is 2-0 as a starter and also led NAU to a comeback win over Sac State after being inserted late in the game.
UND will be without freshman safety Cam Kuksa for the rest of the season. Kuksa was injured in last week’s game vs. Portland State. The team is calling it a “neck injury”, which is never good. We wish Cam the best of luck through this scary injury. He was probably the best defensive player for UND the past 3-4 weeks and will leave a big hole in the secondary. We are hoping Baylee Carr will be healthy enough to get back into the starting lineup and take Kuksa’s spot.
The UND front-seven will be challenged once again this week. NAU is going to lineup and run the ball 50+ times and dare you to stop them. If UND can play as well as they did vs. Portland State they will have a chance. But, it all begins with stopping #34. If they cannot get him contained early it will be a long day for the UND defense, both in time spent on the field and on the scoreboard.
UND Offense vs NAU Defense
The Lumberjacks 4-3 defense is giving up an average of 352 yards and 26 points per game this season. They primarily are Cover 1, 3 and 4 in their defensive backfield coverages. This is a lunch bucket and hard hat type of defense, meaning they aren’t flashy but they get the job done. NAU come’s in with a +3 in the turnover ratio department and are led by strong safety #20 Lucky Dozier and middle linebacker #35 Austin Hasquet.
The UND offense needs to continue to build on what they have done the last 2 weeks: try run the ball, slow the game down, and keep the defense off the field. We are seriously concerned about the deterioration of the offensive line play the last few weeks. They need to play well and get back on track in order for this offense to have any chance to move the ball this week against a good NAU defense.
We don’t think there’s any doubt that you will see both QBs play this week, and it is no doubt warranted given the struggles of Joe Mollberg recently. Ryan Bartels deserves to play and have a shot, given the fact that Mollberg has continued to repeat freshman errors over and over again. What Bartels lacks in athletic ability when compared to Mollberg, he makes up mentally with his QB acumen with pre-snap and post-snap reads.
We believe that NAU will blitz a lot given what they have seen on film from UND recently. UND needs to be able to execute some screens to help keep the NAU defense honest. The perimeter screens are always a staple, but they need to be able to run some screens towards the middle of the formations as well. We believe RB slip screens would be a big help to the inside pressures that UND has been seeing lately.
For the first time in a long while, special teams were the downfall last week in the loss last week in Portland, OR. That cannot happen this week in Flagstaff against a better opponent who is playing good football and has their eyes on a playoff appearance. Head Coach Jerome Souers will have his team ready to play.