The UND Football team is currently on their bye week so we figured now would be a good time to recap what we saw in the first half of the season.
The team currently sits at 3-2. As most know, they need to reach 7-4 to have a shot at the FCS playoffs. However, that isn’t a guarantee unless they add at least two more high-quality wins (Montana & Weber State would fit that label).
There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that UND should be 4-1 right now. That loss to Idaho State was a bad one, even though ISU is turning out to be a solid team this year. The Hawks led for the majority of the game at home before making one mistake late and losing their lead.
But they aren’t 4-1. So that means they need to step up and win another game vs. a quality opponent. The key to getting in at 7-4 is quality wins and no really bad losses. The committee hates really bad losses for 7-4 teams, even if you beat an FBS team and a Top 8 FCS-seeded team. That is undeniable. The best thing they can do is go 8-3 or 9-2 and leave no doubt. Oh, and have Idaho State win 2-3 more games.
The remaining schedule for UND:
- 10/13 – Montana (4-1)
- 10/20 – at Sacramento State (2-2)
- 10/27 – Weber State (3-1)
- 11/3 – at Idaho (2-2)
- 11/10 – Portland State (1-4)
- 11/17 – at Northern Arizona (2-3)
UND Rushing Offense. The offensive line has played above expectations considering the injuries that have taken place within that unit. It has been a revolving door at the two tackle positions but somehow they have stayed fairly consistent. LT Bennett Helgren has settled in and played fairly well in place of the injured starter Noah Mortel, who is done for the year with a back injury. The RT position has been manned by freshman Matt Waletzko, who missed 2 games due to injury but will be back, Nate Nguon, who missed the first three games due to injury but is starting now, and Sean Russo. What does that tell us? That the interior three lineman have been pretty darn good. LG Ryan Tobin, C Patric Rooney, & RG Grant Aplin have been the steady force behind the running game that is churning out 247 yards/game, which would be 3rd in the Big Sky and 14th nationally. I like the way this unit is playing right now.
The Three-Headed Monster. We all knew UND had something special at RB coming into this season. Seniors John Santiago (100 yards/game) and Brady Oliveira (76 yards/game) have been a consistent force for OC Paul Rudolph since their first days on campus. 2018 has been no different in that department but what has been different is the addition of power back James Johannesson (48 yards/game) to the mix. The style difference between the three has been fun to watch, especially last week when the flashy Santiago not playing. Northern Colorado got a steady dose of the power running styles of Oliveira and Johannesson and basically wanted nothing to do with it, as the combined for 267 yards and 2 TD’s.
Pass Protection. The aforementioned offensive line/tight end group has been able to keep QB Nate Ketteringham upright for the majority of the season. They have only allowed 6 sacks on the season in 146 attempts. The slow-developing play-action game that UND likes to use has had time to formulate due to the play of the lineman and tight ends.
UND Rushing Defense. The UND rushing defense has been pretty solid all year, minus one half vs. Idaho State. That was a scheme issue that got them for some big runs. They are allowing 125 yards/game on the ground, which would be 2nd in the Big Sky. We think that number will drop some and we know the coaching staff is not happy with giving up that much, even.
Pass Rush. The front seven for UND have been relentless all season and have an impressive 20 sacks to show for it. That would put them #1 in the Big Sky. That unit is led by emerging star Mason Bennett. The 6’4″-260 junior from Winnipeg is second in the nation in sacks with 6. He has also pressured several other throws, one of which led to a Jordan Canady INT vs. Idaho State.
UND Secondary. Did they start out slow and get ripped a bit by us? Yes. But, once cornerbacks Evan Holm and Deion Harris started to get back into game mode they have really come around. Let’s all remember that neither of them had played a game in a year, with Harris not playing in over 19 months. Holm (6 PBU’s) has been playing at an all-conference level. Safety Jordan Canady has also been playing at an all-conference level – leading the team with two INT’s and also have five PBU’s. Plus, Canady has been very noticeable in the open field vs. the run game. CB Hayden Blubaugh has also made huge strides since being thrown to the wolves last year as a true freshman. (we certainly don’t like the 262 passing yards/game they are giving up but the group seems to be coming into their own)
Third Down Offense. UND is converting at a 41% clip on third down, which would be good for 4th in the Big Sky. We like how they have put themselves in manageable positions by getting positive gains on first and second down.
4th Down Defense. UND is holding opponents to 2-7 on fourth down conversion attempts. That is outstanding and is technically five more ‘turnovers’ that they have forced.
UND Red Zone Offense. The offense has only converted on 16/21 (76%) chances inside the red zone, which would put them 12th in the Big Sky. Not good enough. The best teams get points at a 90% clip. UND is averaging 24 points/game on the season overall, which would be 12th in the Big Sky.
Turnover Margin. The Hawks are sitting at +1 for the year in turnover margin. That needs to jump up consistently has they head into the meat of the Big Sky schedule. The defense setting up the offense with short fields is imperative. UND has four interceptions in five games. We need more ball-hawking in the second half.
Kickoff Team. The kickoff team is not performing at a high enough level through five games. Kicker Brady Leach is averaging 57 yards/kickoff but the coverage team is allowing 25 yards/return. This means they are only yielding 32 yards per kickoff. That is not good enough and would put them dead last in the Big Sky (14th). This stat directly affects the defense as they now have less margin for error when taking the field.
Penalties. This is downright FUGLY. UND has been called for 34 penalties for 342 yards – 68 yards/game. That would put them 10th in the Big Sky. Many of those penalties have been personal fouls, which is not good. The real problem is their opponents are only being called for 53 yards in penalties per game, meaning a 15 yard deficit. Let’s also remember that all those penalty yards (342) came in four games because UND had ZERO penalties vs. Washington. Oof.
Third Quarter Offense. The Hawks have only managed 10 points in five games this season in the third quarter. That is a very troubling statistic considering they have scored 83 points in the first half. The fourth quarter hasn’t been much better with UND scoring 28 points through five games. Second half issues need to be addressed.
As always we would appreciate your thoughts on how you felt the first half of the season went. Just add your comments below and we can get a discussion going!