We weren’t quite sure how this game was going to play out. Eastern Washington was desperate for a win after starting the season 1-3. UND (2-2) was coming off a bye week & big home win vs Sam Houston State.
Then, you add in the 20-25 mph wind and snow in late September and you got yourself a unique situation.
As it turned out, EWU was the one who made the big plays defensively, which ultimately made the difference and gave them a 35-20 victory.
The loss leaves the Hawks with a bitter taste in their mouth, no doubt. They turned the ball over six times in the game yet were only down 28-20 in the 4th quarter.
The UND offense accumulated 369 yards of offense on 83 plays. Not bad production considering the weather.
However, the UND offense also turned the ball over an astounding six times. That’s obviously a recipe for a loss, which is what happened. When you go on the road to a hostile place where the opponent rarely loses, you best play a clean game.
QB Nate Ketteringham finished the day 19-43 for 211 yards and 1 TD vs 3 INT’s. Ketteringham was also credited with two of the lost fumbles. The TD pass to Travis Toivonen was a beautiful end zone fade throw that Kett throws quite well – here is the clip:
I personally questioned on Twitter how UND is to proceed at QB the rest of the year. I do feel Ketteringham can lead the offense relatively effectively. What I don’t like is the turnovers and volatility of his play. He throws a beautiful deep ball but struggles with intermediate stuff, especially if pressured.
Backup QB Tommy Schuster led the team to a win vs. SHSU but is only a true freshman. I would expect Ketteringham to be the starter next week but hope for more consistency vs. Davis.
Here is my take on each of the six turnovers:
- Ketteringham and RB Dalton Gee biffed the handoff on a draw play. Not sure what happened but it obviously shouldn’t have. My point of reference is that my FM-Athletics 5-6th grade team hasn’t botched a handoff yet this year. That’s as deep as we need to look into that one.
- Ketteringham threw the ball behind Alex Cloyd on a 10 yard curl route, causing Cloyd to reach back and tip the ball into the EWU defender Calin Criner. Wanzek may catch that ball but Cloyd probably isn’t due to the location of it.
- Early in the 3rd quarter, 28-14 score, Kett drops back and gets hit by the edge rusher as he is throwing the ball. It flies up and an EWU defender catches it. It was called a fumble in the official game book. UND blew the protection as they tried to swipe protect with Cloyd but he didn’t get there in time and Gee missed the blitzer, as well.
- 28-20 and UND is driving early in the 4th – Kett runs RPO action, pulls it but throws it ahead of a slanting Toivonen – once again Criner jumps the route and picks off the pass.
- Ketteringham is sacked and fumbles the ball – recovered by EWU. One of those deals on a wet day.
- UND tries a fade down the sideline to Garett Maag but safety Dehonta Hayes flies over and picks off the pass.
WR Noah Wanzek was a major focus of the Eagle defense coming in and it showed. Wanzek only had two catches for 22 yards on the day.
The other two big WR’s, Toivonen and Garett Maag more than made up for it though with their play. Toivonen ended the game with 4 catches for 75 yards and 1 TD. Maag snared 5 balls for 72 yards, including a nice 43 yard post route that setup UND’s second touchdown.
RB James Johannesson thrived in this type of a grinder game. With the wind/snow blowing OC Danny Freund used his tight ends and fullbacks more to open up the run game. JJ was the main beneficiary of this tweak finishing the game with 15 rushes for 107 yards and 1 TD.
This week’s version of the “Brockstar” formation yielded another touchdown for UND. Brock Boltmann did a nice job bouncing the run to the right and using his speed to get wide and then cut it up for the 2 yard TD. The clip:
It’s quite apparent that UND is trying to get RB Cam McKinney more involved in the offensive game plan. McKinney had 13 total touches (7 carries-6 catches) for 66 total yards. Looking for him to now take that next step and plant his foot in the ground and go or cutback/make a move in the open field to break one.
RT Donny Ventrelli got dinged up in practice this week, which necessitated the moved of center Nate Nguon to RT and brought back starting center Patric Rooney to the lineup. It was good to see Rooney back on the field.
EWU notched five sacks on Saturday, which was very surprising to me. The Hawks had only given up two sacks in three games coming into this one. There were a few protection issues I noticed but a couple others were simply the UND OL getting beat.
Tale of Two Halves Defensively: EWU had 10 drives for 282 yards in the first half — EWU had 8 drives for 95 yards total in the second half. Their lone touchdown of the half was scored after a UND turnover and they only had to go 18 yards. UND just didn’t come out ready to play football but made some nice adjustments in the second half and played much more inspired.
The Eagles rushed for 284 yards on 62 carries. Way too many yards and way too easy at times, as well. The Hawks defense had major run fit issues in the first half when all EWU was doing was running inside zone. The inside linebackers were filling the wrong holes at times leading to easy inside runs for EWU. I compiled a few clips that illustrate this issue in the first half:
To their credit, UND made adjustments up front and really cleaned things up vs. the run in the second half. They forced three punts and two turnover-on-downs in the second half. But, by that point the Eagles already had 28 points so it was an uphill battle all second half.
EWU was only 4-16 on third down.
Senior OLB Jade Lawrence had another solid game. Lawrence notched 7 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 TFL’s in the game. He has really been a solidifying force opposite Jaxson Turner this season.
Special Teams wise – kicker Brady Leach missed another extra point this week. That’s his second in as many weeks. It would have forced UND to go for two if they had scored late to tie it. These little special teams gaffes are getting to be a major concern. Punter Cade Peterson hasn’t been stroking it very well, either as of late.
Is UND in one of those “must win” situations vs. a team (UC-Davis) that already has three losses and is probably in the same situation? I think so. The loser of this game is sitting in a tight spot moving ahead.
If the Hawks can come out with the same jump & fire they had vs. Sam Houston State a couple weeks ago they can definitely win this game. Davis is not as good as everyone thought they’d be but is dangerous on offense with one of the top signal callers in the country running the show – Jake Maier. Plus, their offense runs about every formation and gadget play known to man. This gives DC Schmidt alot to prepare for.
Everyone needs to remember one thing: it’s fine to be negative right now based on the result of last week’s game. However, coming into the season pretty much every Hawks fans said if they can be 3-2 after these first five they are in business. Well, they have a chance to be 3-2 after Saturday.
It’s Homecoming and a nationally ranked UC-Davis team is coming to town. Let’s have some fun.