It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t what we all expected. But it was a win.
UND outlasted the upstart Northern Colorado Bears by a score of 45-38 on Saturday – upping their record to 6-4 and keeping their playoff hopes alive.
We were definitely surprised by the play of UNC in this game as they typically fade off as the season wears on. They were energetic and had a nice game plan on how to attack the Hawks defense – credit to Earnest Collins and his staff.
The win leaves UND in a position to somewhat control their own destiny. If UND can beat Southern Utah this coming Saturday they will be in the conversation for an at-large playoff spot. If they lose the season is over.
The UND offense was superb in the first half. They scored 31 points and moved the ball at will most of the time. OC Danny Freund came into this one with a solid game plan of mixing up the run and pass vs. previous week’s of mostly all passing.
The emergence of RB Cam McKinney off injury was huge for the Hawks running game. He ran for 107 yards on only 6 carries. His long 55 yard TD run up the middle was exactly what we were hoping to see more of from the Hawks offense this season. There was a huge hole and McKinney made several guys miss while outrunning the last one with his elite speed. McKinney also added a nice 50 yard kick return.
QB Nate Ketteringham had another solid game. His only real gaffe was the INT where he had to pull it back down and chose to swing it wide to James Johannesson – the only problem is JJ had wheeled up the sideline so the defender made a beautiful diving catch to make the turnover.
Kett ended the game going 26-37 for 297 yards and two TD’s vs one INT. He was sacked twice, however, which was surprising because UND’s pass protection had been outstanding lately.
WR Noah Wanzek was a dude again this week. 9 catches for 125 yards and 1 TD for the senior from Jamestown. Wanzek has 61 receptions for 835 yards and 4 TD’s this season.
We are not 100% sure on this but we believe RG Kyle Hergel has played every snap (or darn near) this season. For a redshirt freshman that is pretty damn impressive. Plus, Hergel has been in on the goal line defensive package.
Of concern to me is how UND never scored again after McKinney’s long TD run that put them up 38-21. That was with 12:59 left in the 3rd quarter – so basically the majority of the second half. It seems they got very complacent, especially after UND’s punt block for TD (more below).
Here is UND’s drive chart AFTER the McKinney TD run – not good to say the least. Two fumbles and a missed FG when all UND really had to do was play clean football and salt the game away.
When you get up by 24 points on Northern Colorado, we are of belief you should turn it into 31 and 38 and 45, etc. Not go the other way and make it a one score game. You have to bury teams when they want to die.
Defensively, UND played a poor game – no other way to put it. To give up 38 points and 503 yards to a team that averages 18 points/game is inexcusable. It was almost as bad as Idaho State but not quite. The energy seemed to be there but the ability to cover somebody and make a big play wasn’t.
WR Jaren Mitchell was literally unstoppable for the Bears. UND had no answer for the freshman as he ended the game with 10 catches for 242 yards and two TD’s. The UND corners did not defend the deep ball well at all and it showed in QB Jacob Knipp’s final stats – 393 yards and 3 TD’s vs 2 INT’s.
Too many times the corners were soft in coverage, allowing the receiver a free run at them. The secondary didn’t disrupt timing at all by “catching” them at 3-4 yards or staying square and re-routing the receiver.
To give up that 75 yard TD pass to Mitchell the very next play after the Kauppinen blocked punt return for TD was demoralizing. UND was up 45-21 and that gave a team that has nothing to play for new motivation.
We will say it again – defend the deep shots that teams want to take and they will slowly wilt away. UNC needed LONG plays to stay in this because they cannot run the ball and UND’s offense was going to score alot of points. Unfortunately, they were consistently able to hit big plays vs. the Hawks secondary.
UND had issues getting to Knipp in the first 2.5 quarters but started to break through as the game wore on. DE Mason Bennett returned from injury and made a huge difference up front for the Hawks. He ended the game with 3 TFL’s, 2 sacks and 1 FF. Without Bennett this game may have turned out differently.
To the Hawks credit they did bow up in the red zone several times to keep the Bears at bay. Hayden Blubaugh’s diving interception in the end zone thrwarted a drive that would’ve pulled UNC within 7 in the fourth quarter. The very next drive UND stoned RB Milo Hall on 4th and 2 on the two yard line to keep the Bears down by 14. Those two plays were monumental as things could’ve fell apart real fast if they punch either or both in.
Speaking of the 4th down goal-line stop on Hall, NG Jalen Morrison beat the center upfield and was the one that blew up that play. UND was just in there base 3-4 alignment for that play, no goal line package.
Alex Cloyd provided all of us with yet another massive, enormous game-winning type play this week. His punt block (2nd of year) was scooped up by freshman Kadon Kauppinen for a touchdown and it gave UND a 45-21 lead – those points became huge because UND never scored again on offense.
Before the season started I predicted 7-4. UND is one win away from that mark and had everything to play for this weekend at home vs. Southern Utah. The Thunderbirds (3-8) are in the midst of another poor season but just beat Northern Arizona at home 31-30. They’re a team that can score points through the air – similar to Northern Colorado.
The Hawks are square on the playoff bubble and need a good performance on Saturday. The committee needs a reason to put them in over other 7-4 or 7-5 teams and maybe a good, solid final audition would do that.
We’ll be putting out a playoff scenario post sometime this week once we can compile all the games of interest across the country.
Photo courtesy of Eric Burton.