UND won 38-0 on Saturday but you couldn’t tell when talking to the fans. Many left the Alerus Center wondering what they just watched after witnessing their favorite team turn the ball over at an alarming rate.
The Hawks took care of business where it mattered however, on the scoreboard, and improved their record to 2-1 on the season.
This writeup is going to be a mix of general game takeaways along with what I am seeing after taking in all three games the Hawks have played.
The Hawks offense gained an impressive 527 total yards with 288 of it coming via the ground game. The Hawks didn’t get the inside game going as consistently as hoped but part of that was due to Drake being stout on the inside. The way to beat them was to go around the end using speed and that’s where Luke Skokna came into play.
The junior out of Illinois took an inside zone handoff and broke out around left end untouched 51 yards for the first touchdown of the game. It was an impressive show of speed by Skokna, a guy who was undoubtedly tired after a heavy workload on Saturday, including kick and punt returns.
RB Isaiah Smith made his Hawks debut and did not disappoint rushing 12 times for 126 yards and 1 TD. Smith is a combination of size and speed and will be a dynamic playmaker for years to come.
— UND Insider (@UNDinsider) September 19, 2021
The UND defense was outstanding all game. Drake got a couple small runs early that gave some pause but UND ended up stopping them on 3rd down each time. The Bulldogs really couldn’t get anything going at all due to their inability to throw the ball.
Drake QB Ian Corwin did not play in this game and it affected them greatly. The backups, Luke Bailey – Ruben Beltran – Blake Ellingson – were not allowed to do much and UND feasted up front knowing the game plan was going to be very vanilla.
The Bulldogs were 0-13 on third down before converting late vs. the UND 2-3’s. Drake ended up 2-17 on third down.
Drake had 163 yards of total offense on 58 plays. The Hawks defense also forced three turnovers via interception and gained another on a special teams fumble.
Jordan Canady had a beautiful INT that he returned to the 1 yard line (reaching the ball out and having it land on the 1/2 yard line). Canady broke on the pass to the flat, doing a nice job of reading the QB’s eyes to make the play.
Safety Matt Koshiol got his first career INT to end the game and keep the shutout intact.
Jayson Coley also had an INT where he read the QB’s eyes and came over from the deep middle to pick the seam route. Coley had a nice game and seems to be getting quite comfortable back there.
I know you are already aware of this but UND turned the ball over an astounding five times on Saturday. FIVE times…..vs. Drake. The is far past unacceptable and has me wondering what is going on right now. The offense churned out 527 yards and scored 38 points and it felt like they played average football.
Four of those turnovers were inside the Bulldog 20 yard line. That is four possible touchdowns they gave away. This game should’ve been 55-0 minimum. But lackadaisical effort with the ball cost the Hawks greatly.
UND fumbled four times on Saturday. Let me hit you with some sobering stats:
- In seven spring games UND lost 4 fumbles.
- Through three games this fall, UND has lost 5 fumbles.
Fumbling is a concentration and technique issue. Very rarely does an opponent simply make a great play to rip the ball out or club it out. On Saturday those first three fumbles by Vaughn and Maag were simply not securing the ball correctly and valuing the possession.
Penalties for the most part are also a concentration issue. How about some more sobering stats:
- Spring 2021 Season – 24 penalties for 222 yards in seven games.
- Fall 2021 Season – 18 penalties for 206 yards in three games.
False starts are a mental penalty and show if a team/player is really locked in. UND has SIX false starts in three games. That is absurd – it should be zero. Against Drake, a UND OL jumped on first and goal at the 1 yard line, moving the ball back to 1st and 6. Two plays later UND fumbled and got nothing out of a first and goal.
Which leads me to my next point – something I tweeted about on Sunday – something is off right now with this team. They appear a bit complacent and under assumption they are better than they are possibly.
We went through this at UND in 1996 when I was a freshman. Picked to win the league and absolutely loaded with senior stars (Callahan, Tibesar, Cheatham, Borowicz), we started out 2-3. After getting beat badly by Omaha on homecoming there was a players-only meeting that got a bit heated but allowed opinions to be aired and allowed people to let it out. Even though playoffs were out of the question, we went on to win the last five in row in convincing fashion, almost like it was a totally different team.
I am not saying that needs to happen but sometimes a reset is in order to get your eye back on the prize.
Otis Weah did not dress for the Drake game, for lack of a better term, due to something off the field. This tells me he did something that wasn’t to the benefit of the program. When a team loses their best player due to his own actions it screws with the flow and messes up the focus of the team. The offensive side of the ball has not look focused for about 6 straight quarters. They beat Drake because they are better than them. If that was a top MVFC team UND would’ve lost by double digits.
The collaboration, the playing as one unit – three-phases all pulling the same direction, is not happening like it did in the spring.
This MVFC season is going to be hell of alot harder than the spring one was. Hopefully, this bye week will allow them to re-calibrate and get back to playing UND football.
Having said all that – there are ALOT of good things happening, as well, folks. The explosive plays, pass protection, play of Matt Waletzko, solid QB play, depth at WR & RB, Adam Zavalney at tight end – all solid building blocks that show how good this offense can be.
The talent is there to win games. The scheme is there to win games. Now it just all needs to come together as the Hawks enter the MVFC schedule!
Cover photo courtesy of Eric Burton.