To be honest, things were going a little too good for the Hawks lately. They were 4-0 and had beaten several high-quality teams without being exposed much at all.
That changed on Saturday when they headed back down to the Fargodome and got ran over by the Bison to the tune of 316 rushing yards. The final score was 34-13 and left all Hawks fans wondering exactly where UND sits in the FCS landscape.
We all knew UND wasn’t suddenly a Top 5 program. But they had shown they could hang with & beat top teams this spring. NDSU did some things on offense that surprised the Hawks but to not keep it closer is a bit disheartening.
The Rundown – Offense
It’s tough to grade the UND offense because they weren’t able to get into their typical rhythm that they are accustomed to. The Hawks had dominated time of possession and churned out long drives over the first half of the season. On Saturday they never found that rhythm and it showed.
Time of possession was 36 to 24 in favor of NDSU. The Hawks only ran 51 plays the entire game and only mustered 304 yards of offense.
UND was 1-10 on third down. That is horrific. The Hawks came into the game clicking at over 50% on third down. The issue was way, way too many third and longs. NDSU is too good to have to get over 8+ yards on third down.
I was disappointed with the play of the wide receiver group. They didn’t respond to the physical clutching and grabbing of the Bison secondary. They weren’t attacking passes knowing the windows were smaller in this game. The urgency just wasn’t there.
Garett Maag and Jake Richter combined for two catches. TWO. That cannot happen in any game, let alone the biggest game of the year. The disconnect between them and Tommy Schuster surprised me.
QB Tommy Schuster had a very average day by most standards, certainly his. He went 13-26 for 143 yards with 1 TD vs 1 INT. He missed a few throws early, specifically a 3rd down to Maag that was low and behind him but like I mentioned earlier he had no chance to get in a rhythm. It was choppy all day and the windows were tight.
Otis Weah’s touchdown was electric! That gave UND all the momentum and took the air out of the building. It showed his vision, cutting and speed all in one play. Weah ended the day with 129 yards on 13 carries.
Freshman Bo Belquist ran a gorgeous corner route on the throwback TD pass from Schuster. He had NDSU’s best cover guy, Josh Hayes, on him and twisted him around easily and was wide open. Schuster also threw a beautiful ball, too.
The Rundown – Defense
Overall, it wasn’t all doom and gloom defensively. They grabbed two interceptions in the first half that essentially kept them in the game. C.J Siegel made a huge hit on Christian Watson to jar the ball loose at the point of the catch and it flew up into the arms of a pursuing Devon Krzanowski. That was a big, big play.
Senior safety Hayden Galvin baited Noland into the second INT on a crossing route. Veteran play by Galvin. It was another turnover that stopped a promising NDSU drive.
Running back Hunter Luepke was a load to bring down and it’s quite apparent the game plan was to just run him straight at UND all day. I am sure they saw that nobody had committed to that all year vs UND & Coach Entz had commented about the size of UND’s defensive line. Luepke ended the day with 190 yards and 3 TD’s. One of those deals where you know it’s coming but can’t do anything about it.
Luepke hadn’t played all year so people do need to realize that UND wasn’t game planning for that at all. The pin/pull blocking & A-gap power stuff wasn’t on tape much at all, especially with Luepke running the ball. NDSU came up with a unique game plan and it worked so tip your hat to them.
The touchdown by Watson before the half was a back-breaker. If UND can stop them with only a minute left in the half it’s 14-6 and they are getting the ball to start the second half, a situation they score in every time (and did). Instead it’s 21-6 and NDSU has all momentum. It was 50/50 ball and their guy got it – the difference between winning and losing.
Injuries are an issue for UND, suddenly. Jalen Morrison left the game early and we were told Jordan Canady may have been significantly injured, also. Let’s hope for the best on Jordan.
Losing Morrison is devastating because he is the starter and they already lost Craig Orlando for the spring and Elijah Beach has not yet played.
Time to move on y’all. The season is far from over and UND still controls it’s own destiny to the playoffs.
We found out yesterday that Illinois State is opting out of the rest of the spring season. That means UND is down to two games left – this week’s game at Youngstown State and next week’s home finale vs. Missouri State. Win them both and they are 6-1 and in the playoffs.
It was one game in a place that nobody had won since 2016. Not the result we wanted but the biggest sin would be letting NDSU beat them twice by not being mentally prepared for an improved YSU squad.
Cover photo courtesy of Russell Hons via UND Athletics