Coming into the game we hoped the gap had closed a bit more since 2015. However, we’re not sure that’s the case after Saturday.
The offense looked much better than last time UND visited the Fargodome but the defense didn’t play nearly as well. The combination of those two things led to a 38-7 win for NDSU and left UND possibly wondering just where they stand in the FCS landscape.
This loss leaves UND sitting at 1-1 on the season and a daunting schedule the next four weeks – beginning with Sam Houston State at home next weekend for the annual Potato Bowl.
Total Yards – NDSU 428 UND 230
Andrew Zimmerman played alright. The senior QB hit a few nice throws to his big WR’s but there just wasn’t enough chances to really take over the game. Zimmerman ended the day 16-27 for 150 yards and 2 INT’s. The one interception he threw in the 3rd quarter was a poor decision but luckily the defense bailed him out holding NDSU to a field goal.
In our pregame podcast/writeup post I pointed out that hitting the RB in a checkdown situation is typically there vs. NDSU because they want you to throw down the seams & into holes that appear open. When re-watching the game I found one example right away where Zimmerman threw deep into double coverage down the seam – the checkdown back, Austin Gordon, was wide open on an underneath angle route that would have gained good yardage – here it is:
Little things like this keep the chains moving and keep field position and ball possession in your favor.
UND only ran the ball for 68 yards, which honestly isn’t that surprising. The deficit on the offensive line was pretty big coming in. We knew they would have to throw the ball alot to hang in this game.
UND showed much, much better on offense this time around, however. They had some rhythm at times and got creative at times, as well. We liked the RPO looks, which we pointed out in our pregame phow typically work vs. NDSU’s defense.
We liked the Brock Boltmann at QB look. They ran him to the backside of the formation and gained 15 yards on a well-designed look. Boltmann will need to eventually throw out of this as team’s scheme up to stop it.
If anything this game shows how much work the Hawks have to do, particularly on the offensive line. The NDSU defensive line was just much too strong for UND to run it’s full compliment of plays. The pass protection was actually decent, only giving up one sack on the day. But Zimmerman was pressured quite often and had to throw quickly much of the time.
Garett Maag and Noah Wanzek showed well in this game. Maag had 6 catches for 76 yards and Wanzek had 6 catches for 46 yards.
True freshman Chrysten Cochran got in the game and caught two passes for 12 yards. He is a guy to watch this fall – he possibly could play more than his ‘freshman four’ games.
The UND offense had five 3-and-outs in the game. Just too many against a team as good as NDSU – defense kept coming back on the field when some time to regroup was needed.
Defensively, UND did not perform well at all, IMO. Giving up 266 yards rushing is too much, even though QB Trey Lance was the guy that hurt them the most with scrambles and designed runs. Those are hard to defend when considering the RB becomes an extra blocker. Lance ended the day with 162 yards passing and 95 yards rushing.
The run fits were an issue moreso on the the edge than in the middle. NDSU couldn’t get much going between tackles but hurt the Hawks badly on sweeps and unbalanced looks where the ball carrier went around end. Contain wasn’t held very often at all and NDSU would get 8-10 yards much too easily. The following play is an example:
The defensive line was going to be at a disadvantage based on size and experience to begin with but the linebacker/safety play left me wanting more. DE Mason Bennett had a nice game and was noticeable all afternoon, which is what they need him to do. Bennett ended the game with five tackles.
NDSU finished 9-14 on third down conversions.
ILB Donnell Rodgers led the team with 16 tackles and was very active vs. that tough NDSU front. Safety Jordan Canady added 14 tackles.
The problem right now after watching that game is that UND’s linebackers just aren’t fast enough to play these top offenses with high-end speed in the backfield, particularily QB. Time after time we saw the play go wide and a Hawk linebacker was a step behind and couldn’t quite get there. The OLB’s didn’t do much in this game at all with the top 4 combining for 8 tackles total and only 1.5 TFL.
A bright spot was the play of freshman cornerback C.J. Siegel. The Wisconsin native had two nice pass breakups and ended the game with 7 tackles. Siegel was filling in for senior Evan Holm who missed his second consecutive game due to injury.
The Hawks need to file this one away and get fired up for the Potato Bowl on Saturday. Don’t let NDSU beat you twice by dwelling on it and looking stale vs. Sam Houston State (1-1). We believe UND made it out of the game fairly healthy so all hands should be on deck vs. the Bearkats.
We are expecting CB Evan Holm to play, also. If you recall, Holm had a whale of a game vs. SHSU last year down in Huntsville when he defended all three end zone TD attempts vs. WR Nathan Stewart. Those two will lock horns again on Saturday.
Everyone, including us, need to remember that UND has their entire season in front of them – five more home games along with two bye weeks to make a playoff push. Beating SHSU will be a playoff resume booster and a springboard into the their bye week on Sept. 21.
Photo courtesy of fightinghawks.com