Buckle up folks, we got a good one on tap this weekend.
The #4 Weber State Wildcats and their smothering defense are coming into the Alerus Center for a knockdown, dragout tilt with the #22 North Dakota Fighting Hawks. Game time is set for 2pm at the Alerus Center.
Weber State is 5-2 on the season. They have been a bit of a rollercoaster mainly because of their offensive struggles. But, they are a top team in the country and will give UND their biggest FCS test to date. An interesting tidbit from their schedule is the fact they are 1-2 on the road this year and we all know the trip to Grand Forks isn’t the easiest.
Aug. 30 at Utah – lost 10-41
Sept. 8 at Cal Poly – won 24-17
Sept. 15 vs South Dakota – won 27-10
Sept. 22 vs Northern Colorado – won 45-28
Oct. 6 at Northern Arizona – lost 24-28
Oct. 13 vs Eastern Washington – won 14-6
Oct. 20 vs Montana State – won 34-24
The strength of the Wildcats is their defense. They are a very physical, aggressive group that likes to bring pressure and have a lot of hats in the box. All of the following statistics show a very sound defense that is opportunistic and ball-hawking.
Points Allowed Per Game – 22.0
Rushing Defense – 131 yds/game
Passing Defense – 203 yds/game
Interceptions – 11
Forced Fumbles – 13
Sacks – 21
Third Down Defense – 28%
Running the ball is not going to be easy this week. In 2016, Weber State showed up at the Alerus Center and effectively limiting the UND rushing attack to 171 yards on 45 carries and somehow only allowing 41 yards passing (luckily UND held them to 12 yards rushing on 31 carries).
This is another game where Nate Ketteringham is going to have to win it for UND. He doesn’t have to go for 250 yards and 4 TD’s like vs. Montana but he will need to hit some shots downfield to move the offense in big chunks. 4-5 yard gains all the way down field are not going to work this week.
The Weber State offense is struggling through seven games. They are a typical spread offense that works out of the gun with QB Jake Constantine at the controls. Their backup QB, Kaden Jenks, broke his leg last week vs MSU and is out for the season. Jenks was their “Wildcat QB” if you will, typically catching the snap and then running the ball. We assume that Weber will now insert a running back when they want to go with the Wildcat look.
This offense doesn’t take many chances due to the fact they have such a good defense. Head Coach Jay Hill is more than happy to get into a grind-it-out type of game, much like UND prefers to do.
The UND defense is going to need to setup the offense with a short field at least once, much like they did vs. Montana. This will take the pressure off the offense to grind out another long scoring drive.
QB Jake Constantine – 80-140 for 816 yards and 6 TD vs 6 INT
Points Per Game – 25.4
Total Yards Per Game – 266.3
Rushing Yards Per Game – 133
Passing Yards Per Game – 133
Third Down Conversions – 20%
Sacks Allowed – 20
The Weber State special teams have been pretty good in 2018. They are averaging 30.9 yards per kick return. This does not bode well for UND as they struggle in kick coverage this year. #22 Rashid Shaheed is their guy returning kicks at a whopping average of 40 yards/kick and has taken one back for a touchdown. Punt returner #28 Josh Davis has taken one punt back for a touchdown, as well.
Basically put, if UND plays the way they did last week on special teams they are in trouble. It is going to take a consistent, clean effort by the special teams units to win this game. I can pretty much guarantee you that Brady Leach is going to be called upon to kick a couple field goals in this one. I can also guarantee you that the Wildcats will be coming after multiple UND punts.
As usual, we will give our predictions for the game on the Tailgate Show starting at 12:00pm on Saturday. Last week Craig almost nailed it with a 42-17 prediction. Kelly came in at 34-10. Matt Nelson had 32-28 and Shannon picked 27-7. This week we are joined by former UND QB Keaton Studsrud. Should be fun to hear his thoughts on the season thus far and the play of the Hawks offense.