That was quite the memorable weekend for the UND Fighting Hawks Football program.
They came into Saturday knowing they needed that crucial 7th win to possibly snare an at-large bid to the FCS playoffs. While the first half wasn’t pretty, the Hawks came out of the locker room focused and took it to Southern Utah – beating them 36-18.
Then, on Sunday they had to sit around til 11:30am to find out the SUU win did in fact punch their ticket to the playoffs.
UND will take on Nicholls State at 3:00pm CT this coming Saturday, November 30th down in Thibodaux, LA. The winner gets the honor of trying to knock off NDSU the next week.
Based on last year’s debacle in Flagstaff, it was not crazy to feel a bit queasy when SUU punched in a couple touchdowns early and UND turned the ball over repeatedly. I know I did. “Here we go again” started to creep into my mind.
However, when UND answered the T-Birds second TD with a long TD drive of their own, capped off by a 30 yard Travis Toivonen TD reception, I felt a lot better. Knowing SUU isn’t a defensive dynamo meant UND would have plenty of chances to redeem themselves – and they did just that in the second half.
First half yards — UND – 241 SUU – 201
Second half yards — UND 258 SUU – 168
SUU got both their touchdowns via a short field from UND turnovers. The first was a Mikey Griebel muffed punt on the 30 yard line. That drive lasted 45 seconds. The second TD immediately afterwards was off an interception returned to the 24 yard line. That drive lasted 34 seconds. I would’ve liked to have seen the UND defense bow up there and force SUU’s poor field goal kicker to attempt a kick instead of letting them in so easy but whatever.
The point is when the UND defense had a 60-75 yard field to work with SUU didn’t score. They got some yards between the 30’s but UND held up by forcing turnovers, of which they got one on Saturday, or forcing field goal attempts.
Great to see Evan Holm back out of the field. He had a nice breakup in the end zone and also snatched an easy INT and returned it 31 yards right before halftime, which setup a go ahead field goal by Brady Leach. Holm is a difference-maker at cornerback.
Leach hit all three field goals in the game but did miss an extra point. It feels like he’s making headway to becoming a consistent threat for UND but isn’t quite there yet.
WR Noah Wanzek had another big day with 100 yards receiving but hurt his shoulder or collar bone pretty badly, it appeared. He came back onto the field in a sling, which is not good. We will have to wait and see about his availability this weekend.
The story of the game was the emergence of true freshman running back Luke Skokna. The 5’8″ dynamo busted two long, explosive TD runs on the way to a 114 yard day on only 11 carries. His touchdowns were from 28 and 34 yards out. This kid brings a burst that UND desperately needs in their rushing attack. The SUU game was also his 5th of the season meaning he is not redshirting.
Nate Ketteringham had another solid outing. 22-31 for 286 yards and 2 TD’s vs 2 INT’s. He actually threw away a couple passes and Toivonen couldn’t reel in the first INT so considering that he had a very accurate day. The only bad throw really was the INT where he threw into a bracketed receiver. But, he tried to make a play, no big shake.
The offensive line was stout again. Zero sacks. 212 yards rushing, which was a season high. This unit seems to be gelling quite well as we head into playoff time.
The defense had an outstanding second half after a shaky start. SUU only mustered a field goal all half and 168 yards. The pressure ratched up immensely, led by senior OLB Andre Steiger, who notched 2.5 sacks and 2.5 TFL’s.
The UND defense had five sacks and 8 TFL’s on the day. They also held SUU to 4-15 on third down.
UND Makes the Playoffs
After a nervous night, the Hawks were rewarded yesterday with an at-large berth into the 2019 FCS Playoffs!
UND was one of the last four teams in the field, which is not a surprise. We had them in the field the entire time but knew they were up against several teams, like SELA (got in), Furman (got in) and SIU (didn’t get in). It was quite apparent that the Hawks strength of schedule and in particular their strength of wins is what did it for them.
Montana State beating Montana was massive, IMO. The Bobcats jumped all the way to the #5 overall seed, meaning UND beat a very highly ranked team.
Looking ahead at the Nicholls State Colonels – here is what I can find:
- Their QB, Chase Fourcade, is the straw that stirs the drink. Senior, shifty, and true dual-threat. He has run for over 700 yards and thrown for over 2,700.
- The Colonels were 8-4 on the year and pretty much had to beat SELA on Thursday, which they did, to get into the field. That was a wild game full of colossal screwups, mostly by SELA at the end of the game.
- The senior class is the winningest group in school history with 30 wins. 17-4 at home.
- Nicholls lost to Sam Houston State 17-0 earlier this season.
- They are 4-1 at home this season.
- Defense gives up 411 yards and 28 pts/game. Offense averages 30 pts/game and 416 yards/game, with 188 of that coming on the ground.
- They have 25 sacks on the season but have given up 26.
It’s exciting to be back in the post season hunt again, folks! Enjoy the week and we will have our weekly Pregame Show Podcast coming out on Thursday – same time as usual right here at UND Football 360.
Photo by Russell Hons.