I had a feeling this one was going to be one-sided. I just didn’t know that it would be that one-sided.
The Hawks, as we predicted on the pregame podcast, showed no signs of rust after having not played for over a month. The end result was a 44-10 blowout of Missouri State and a date with the Dukes of James Madison next Sunday at 5:00pm on ESPN2.
This was UND’s first ever FCS playoff victory and it essentially got that monkey off Bubba Schweigert’s back as he had been 0-2 in the playoffs.
When reviewing this game there were obviously ALOT of positives if you are a UND fan. The defense was smothering, the offense was efficient and fun, and the special teams were just that – special. It was a complete team effort.
The Hawks front seven was unstoppable the entire day. I have not seen pressure like that since maybe the New Haven game of 2001 when UND notched 14 sacks. But that was an early season non-conference game vs. an inferior opponent. This was the FCS playoffs.
The defensive line was getting a huge inside push consistently to flush QB Matt Struck, all while the outside linebackers were running circles around the Bears offensive tackles. It was a 3-4 clinic. The twisting & games up front caused major issues for the Bears. Struck ended the game going 8-15 for 71 yards and 1 INT.
The Bears only accumulated 185 yards of total offense with 135 of that coming in the second half when the game was pretty much over.
UND notched 8 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, and 6 hurries.
The outside linebackers had an outstanding day overall as a unit. Here is their statistical breakdown:
- Jaxson Turner – 4 tackles, 2 TFL’s, 2 sacks
- Josh Navratil – 7 tackles, 2 TFL’s, 2 sacks
- Ty Shannon – 3 tackles, 2 TFL’s, 1 sack
- Ray Haas – 5 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 breakup
Jaxson Turner was as energetic and fast as I have seen him in his career. He has steadily improved throughout his career.
I don’t quite understand what Bobby Petrino was thinking with his drop-back game plan. UND was obviously going to pressure them, he knew that coming in. He knew his offensive line is not very mobile. Yet, he continued to run a slow-developing drop-back passing game with only 5 or 6 guys staying in for protection. Strange that he never transitioned to max protection, two-man routes or a screen game, etc.
I attached a video below showing a bullrush from Graham Devore, one of many on the day from Devore. He is lined up at right defensive end. Watch Devore push the left guard into Struck, forcing him to flush the pocket and eventually get sacked by Navratil.
Noah Larson had a big game from his ILB position – tallying 10 tackles, 2 TFL’s and 1 sack. He was very active once again and is becoming a dominant leader on this Hawks defense.
Safety Hayden Galvin had possibly the play of the game when he returned an interception 90 yards for a touchdown. Galvin was pressed into more full-time action with the loss of Canady and he responded with a highlight reel TD return off the pick.
Watch Galvin at the bottom of the screen rotate into the middle third – Struck never sees him because he gave the look like he was playing on the other half of the field.
The UND offense started out on fire, something they hadn’t typically done this season. Tommy Schuster hit Garett Maag on a nifty out-and-up for a 50 yard TD to open the scoring and get the Alerus Center on their feet.
The next series OC Danny Freund dials up a flea-flicker and it was executed perfectly as Schuster found a wide open Bo Belquist for the 48 yard TD.
The UND offense ended the day with 364 total yards. 141 of those came via the ground game. It was a weird game offensively because UND got a big lead so quickly that it no doubt changed Freund’s mindset to a more conservative style.
Schuster had another solid, mistake free outing. 13-18 for 223 yards and 2 TD’s. Once again, he was not sacked in this game. UND has only allowed one sack in six games this season.
It was fun to see freshman RB Creighton Mitchell enter the game late and tear it up. He ran for 37 yards in the 4th quarter and scored his first career touchdown, as well.
Speaking of Belquist, it appears his season is over as he injured his ankle to the point he will need surgery this week. That’s a tough loss for the UND offense as the freshman phenom had become a major playmaker in Freund’s offense.
Jayson Coley came up huge in special teams as he blocked an MSU punt when they were backed up on their own goal line. Hayden Reynolds was the man on the spot when the tipped punt fell right to him and he ran it back for a touchdown to put UND up 31-3 and essentially end the game.
Another positive from this game is that UND was able to empty the bench and get their backups some valuable reps. That hasn’t been a very common occurrence for UND over the years and that experience will come in handy next fall for some of those young guys.
QB Quincy Vaughn showed his running ability on that last drive when he took off on a designed QB power for 23 yards. Vaughn adds a nice changeup to the offense when is in there.
On to the quarterfinals! The Hawks now head out to Harrisonburg, VA to take on the powerhouse James Madison Dukes. JMU beat VMI 31-24 on Saturday in a game where they got a comfortable lead but let VMI back into it late.
The Dukes are always physical, talented, and look like an FBS team. This will be a very tough test for the Hawks and should give us another benchmark as to where they are in the FCS pecking order.
Cover photo courtesy of UND Athletics and Russell Hons.