The UND football team heads out west to take on the UC-Davis Aggies on Saturday in what is the final game of the season for UND (3-7). The Aggies (3-7) are also struggling this season under new head coach Ron Gould, who took over for legendary head coach Bob Biggs. Gametime is set for 6pm CT and can be viewed on WatchBigSky.
This season had obviously not gone as well as UND fans had wanted. The UND team had big hopes heading into the season, based on the 7 home games they had vs. only four road games. A win in this final game can do alot for a team as they head into the offseason and get ready for spring ball. It will be interesting to see what kind of game we get between these two 3-7 teams with nothing on the line.
UND Defense vs. UCD Offense
To say the Aggie offense had been anemic this season would be an understatement. They are averaging a paltry 16 pts/game and that ranks them 12th in the Big Sky in that category. They are a very balanced team, averaging 147 yds rushing per game and 183 yds passing per game.
The offense is led by senior QB Randy Wright, who seemingly has been at Davis forever. The four-year starter is second on most of the all-time offensive passing charts at Davis, behind the great J.T. O’Sullivan (who most UND fans will remember from the epic 14-2 semi-final game in 2001). Wright has played fairly consistently this season, throwing for 1,237 yds and 9 TD’s vs. 4 Ints. He has good arm strength with decent mobility and is pretty accurate also, hitting on 64% of his passes this season. Wright is the definition of a “seasoned veteran” and will test the UND secondary often on Saturday.
The main man for the Aggies is running back #41 Gabe Manzanares. Manzanares, 5′-9″-200, is a stout, powerful runner who also shows pretty good speed. On the year he has 1,031 yards and 6 TD’s. We expect UND to see a steady dose of Manzanares in this game and will need to shut him down early or they will force feed him the ball all game.
UC-Davis is not a dynamic offense by an means. They are actually the opposite of EWU or Montana. They seem to be able to move the ball between the 20′s but cannot get into the end zone. UND should matchup fairly well with the Aggies, based on the fact they don’t have a real dangerous receiving threat and as we stated, are fairly pedestrian on offense. We fully expect a solid effort from the UND defense, similar to the PSU game where they shut them out for almost three quarters. With six seniors in the starting lineup UND should be able to contain this Davis offense and give their own offense a chance to win the game.
UND Offense vs UCD Defense
Davis continues to employ their normal 4-3 defense and are giving up an average of 25.2 points/game and 391.5 total yards/game. The Aggie defense is led by junior free safety Charles Boyett and junior weakside linebacker Steven Pitts.
Persistence will be the name of the game again out in Davis, California for the UND offense. For the offensive line, we presume running the ball will be a challenge once again but we think the effort will once again be there by OC Luke Schleusner to try get something going in the run game. Last week’s effort (23 carries, net 4 yards rushing) will absolutely need to be improved upon by the heavy guys up front this week. It would be nice to get PJ Sparks more than one carry this week to see what he can do against a Big Sky opponent.
Ryan Bartels will try continue building off of his last 2 outings and will be looking to set the tone for himself moving forward into spring practice and the 2014 campaign as the leader on the depth chart at the QB position. We are interested to see how he finishes the season and what the lasting impression will be heading into the offseason.
This is also the melancholy swan song for a number of seniors on offense, of which the most prolific and recognizable is undoubtedly #84 Greg Hardin. We hope to see the Bellevue, Nebraska native go out with a bang on Saturday as he has put together one of the finest careers of all-time at any position in the history-rich UND Football program.
We are getting redundant, but: don’t turn the ball over, run the ball with some success and execute the intermediate passing game (no drops) and the UND offense will have done their part to win on Saturday.
We feel the UND team will matchup well with Davis tomorrow night. Being the last game of the year, there is nothing to save, nothing to hold back – for the coaches or players. It will probably be a tight game to the end and we feel the good guys will get the win for the 17 seniors on the roster.