A theme began to develop during the MSU post-game interviews regarding UND’s 2019 games at the Alerus Center.
Players like Jade Lawrence and Alex Cloyd alluded to there being “magic in the Alerus Center”. To be honest, how can one really argue after what we saw on Saturday?
UND blocked a punt with 4:21 left in the game and fell on it in the end zone for a 16-12 lead – a lead that ultimately improved their record to 5-3 on the season.
The Hawks are now 4-0 in the Alerus Center this year and still have two more games remaining to end the season vs. Northern Colorado and Southern Utah.
Between the Brady Leach game winning kick vs. UC-Davis, Tommy Schuster’s heroics combined with the defensive stop on 4th & 2 vs. Sam Houston State – there has been plenty of magic this season at the Alerus Center.
Next up, UND will square off against Big Sky leader #4 Weber State (6-2) out in Ogden. The Hawks are off this week, however, which will be outstanding for their health as they got beat up last week vs. Poly and again this week.
The UND defense played solid, sound football for the majority of the game on Saturday. We all knew they were shorthanded on the defensive line but played one of their better games up front vs. a Bobcat team that wants to run it right down their throat.
A big boost to that defensive line was the return of Graham Devore. The former tight end immediately added size and twitch to the DE position and made numerous disruptive plays throughout the game. Devore ended the day with four tackles, one sack and one TFL.
Nose guard Griffin Lickfeldt also returned this week in a bit of a surprise. The freshman had been out with an undisclosed illness but obviously fought through it to give UND some much needed depth. Lickfeldt is the one who blew up the ‘swinging-gate’ two point conversion attempt by flying right by the center and making the tackle for a loss.
The dynamic duo on the inside, Donnell Rodgers and Noah Larson, combined for 26 more tackles this week. Those two have been stalwarts on the interior of the Hawks defense for two straight seasons now. Rodgers is having a senior season reminiscent of the monster year Will Ratelle put up in 2015.
The return of Evan Holm was just what UND needed defensively. He had three pass breakups and all were big plays, especially the 3rd and 10 curl route that MSU tried to Travis Jonson. He is a difference-maker out there. Will be interesting to see how UND uses him coming up because this was his first game of the season and I am sure they would like to redshirt him. Which three games does he play in considering they might make the playoffs?
Montana State had 316 yards of total offense. 219 of that came via the ground game on 39 attemtps (averaged 247 yds/game coming in). When looking at the rushing numbers a bit deeper we see that UND gave up a few big runs and then not much at all:
- 48 yard run by Hosey
- 25 yard reverse run by Estes
- 49 yard run by Anderson
That means Montana State ran the ball 36 times for 97 yards (including sack yardage). Minus those long runs that shows pretty stout, fundamental football vs. a team that wanted to out-number you up front via Wildcat packages, etc.
UND notched three more sacks on the day to up their season total to 18. They didn’t force a turnover on the day and dropped a couple easy interception opportunities.
Offensively, the Hawks moved the ball well at times but seemed to always fizzle out around midfield or just on Bobcats side of the field. UND had 316 total yards, which is OK, but left points on the board with the Dalton Gee fumble deep in MSU territory and a couple other drives that didn’t make it quite into field goal range.
It was fun watching the bigger UND wide receivers and even James Johannesson on that third down swing pass drag guys for an extra 2-3 yards to just get the first down. Garett Maag converted a big third down by doing just that to the much smaller DB.
Travis Toivonen caught the only TD of the day on a double pass from Brock Boltmann. It was a very well designed play that only worked because of Boltmann’s running prowess on tape. Here is the play:
QB Nate Ketteringham had another nice, solid outing for the Hawks. Kett was 27-36 for 220 yards. He didn’t throw for any TD’s but he didn’t throw any INT’s either. He got pressured several times but was able to get throws away when possible. Kett seems to be settling in to the new offense.
Special Teams Dominance
Here at UND Football 360, we haven’t been too kind to the special teams units of the Hawks over the past few years. From kickoff coverage woes to missed field goals/extra points to average punting and getting punts blocked, it hasn’t been very positive.
Thus far in 2019, the UND special teams as a whole has been pretty damn solid. The kickoff team is running down with their hair on fire like the old days. The punt team hasn’t gotten any blocked this year and Cade Peterson has been pinning teams inside the 5 yard line with regularity.
Freshman Luke Skokna looked good again on kick returns in place of the injured Cam McKinney – returning two kicks for 44 yards with a long of 25.
However, the biggest play in the past several years came from Alex Cloyd with 4:21 left in the game. Cloyd lined up at left tackle on the punt return unit and was supposed to pressure the left side but it wasn’t an all-out block by UND. Cloyd dipped inside his guy with a quick jab move and had a free run right to the punter. He dang near ran by the ball.
I think the Bobcats got messed up by UND’s alignment and had their counts off up front because there was nobody to help on that side at all.
This play put UND up 16-12 and gave them the win when the UND defense shut down the Bobcats on the final drive of the game. Like we said, HUGE play from that special teams unit and one that was needed because the offense was struggling to find the end zone.
An interesting tidbit to think about with that whole scenario: what would MSU have done if they had just kicked the extra point on their previous TD and were up 13-10 instead of 12-10? Backed up in their own end zone they possibly could have taken a safety and then kicked off/punted to UND with much better field position and still had a 1 point lead.
I cannot think of a better way for UND to head into their bye week. That was a big, emotional win over a highly ranked team – the type of win that shows UND can win a variety of ways.
The offense has won some games this year (Poly-Davis), the defense has won some games (MSU-SHSU) and the special teams has now had a hand in winning a game, as well.
The #4 ranked Weber State Wildcats are next on the docket out in Ogden, UT on November 9th. Kickoff is set for 3pm CT.
Weber is 6-2 and is coming off a dominant effort over UC-Davis 36-20. As always, they have a stout defense and an efficient offense. This will be a good litmus test to see where the Hawks are as head down the home stretch.
Photo courtesy of Eric Burton.