It wouldn’t be a true MVFC game for the Hawks if they weren’t in a last-possession battle with their opponent.

Unfortunately for UND, they were once again on the losing end of a tight, hard-fought battle, this time with Southern Illinois, losing 31-28. The loss drops UND to 2-4 on the season and 0-3 in the MVFC.

This loss means the Hawks have to run the table to make the FCS playoffs. Not out of the realm of possibility but certainly a major uphill battle.

The Good

RB Isaiah Smith had a breakout day rushing 17 times for 111 yards and 1 TD. Smith showed nice flashes of vision and speed on Saturday, possibly solidifying his place as a co-starter beside Luke Skokna.

Speaking of running backs, how about the breakout performance by walk-on Austin Clemetson? With Otis Weah out and Skokna injured in-game, Clemetson stepped up and made some big plays in the receiving game out of the backfield to move the chains. Clemetson ended with 3 catches for 27 yards.

Clemetson’s biggest catch of the game came right before halftime on 4th down and 4 when he one-handed a dump off pass from Tommy Schuster. If he drops it the Saluki’s take over with a 14 point lead and time to extend it. Instead, he makes the play and UND goes on to score on an Adam Zavalney TD catch to make it 21-14.

Kason Kelley came up with a punt block right out of halftime that set UND up on the 20 yard line of the Salukis. Kelley rushed up the middle and beat the protector to get a hand up and block the punt. Jayson Coley actually just missed a punt block also so the Hawks may have had two in the game. Coley did recover Kelley’s block, however.

The unfortunate thing is once gain this week UND got ZERO points off a punt block. The score was 21-21. A touchdown for field there changes some things but just like last week vs. USD the Hawks got stuffed on three plays and ended up getting their field goal attempt blocked.

Tommy Schuster and Quincy Vaughn played well together as they traded off plays much for than in the past. Schuster still ran the show and had a nice day for UND, going 31-48 for 267 yards and 2 TD’s vs 0 INT’s. Quincy threw the ball four times, completing two for 18 yards and ran the ball 7 times for 35 yards.

I really liked the flow of the UND offense. They seemed to get in a rhythm and play together as a unit. It wasn’t perfect but 474 yards of total offense is nothing to sneeze at.

Time of possession was 36-24 in favor of UND. No coincidence that they SIU offense was out of sync a decent part of the game due to not being on the field very often.

An amazing stat was UND had 26 first downs but was only 3-15 on third down.

WR Jake Richter has stepped up in a big way the last two weeks, having a dominant game when UND needed it most vs SIU. Besides his highlight-reel, one-handed catch, Richter was bullying DB’s all day ending with 6 catches for 82 yards.

The UND defense really came alive after those first two drives where SIU started at midfield both times. The Salukis marched down the field quite easily to take a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter and I am sure most Hawks fans were quite worried.

The biggest play of the game potentially was the fumble recovery by Devon Krzanowski in the end zone that got UND to back within 14-7. Without that play the wheels may have come off. The ball simply slipped out of QB Nic Baker’s hand and rolled back into the end zone and Krzanowski was right there to pounce on it.

Krzanowski is playing at a very high level once again this fall. He is an all-conference candidate no doubt. Krzanowski talled 9 tackles, 1 TFL and 1 fumble recovery in the game.

SIU only gained 363 total yards on 57 plays. In comparison, the Hawks ran 85 plays. SIU gained 186 on the ground and 177 through the air.

CB Caleb Nelson had a beautiful INT before the half that setup the Hawks to go in and score their game-tying TD. Nelson has been coming on strong over the past two seasons and is going to have a big future at CB for the Hawks.

The Hawks defensive front notched four sacks in the game. I stated in the pregame show that there would be plenty of opportunities to make big plays in this one and the UND defense did just that.

The Bad

The Hawks kicking game without Adam Stage, who is injured, was obviously a detriment in this game. Brady Stevens went 0-3 on field goals, getting one blocked and missing the game-tying attempt at the horn. Stevens is typically their kickoff specialist so I understand he isn’t as good as Stage but it’s tough when the team comes so close. He needs to keep on keepin’ on because UND is going to need him as long as Stage is still injured.

UND had a very slow start to the game once again. Letting teams get up on you is obviously not a good deal but to be behind 14-0 makes them burn alot of emotional/physical capital just to get back to even.

SIU scored one touchdown in the second half on the long 58 yard pass to WR Izaiah Hartup. The part that stings is UND completely blew the coverage. Nobody was lined up over Hartrup, who was in the slot, and Baker found him streaking down the seam unmolested. So SIU scored one touchdown in the last 43 minutes of the game and still won.

As I mentioned earlier, UND did not score with a short field (20 yard line of SIU) after the blocked punt. You need to make a team pay in that situation and completely grab momentum. The Hawks had it briefly for three plays and then gave it right back after getting their own kick blocked.

I don’t know what is going on with Otis Weah but something needs to be figured out, one way or the other. He was suspended for the Drake game earlier this season and now didn’t play in a game where he may have had 200 yards rushing. This team needs players that want to be there. The team that was on the field Saturday WANTED TO BE THERE and it was fun to watch as an alum. Dress the guys that put in the work, want to play through minor injuries, and most importantly want to play for the University of North Dakota.

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Time to move on and get ready for Homecoming this weekend vs. Western Illinois (1-6). The Leathernecks were just downed 41-17 by SDSU in a game that was much tighter than the score indicates. WIU is playing teams tough this year (lost 31-30 to SIU) and pose a high-octane offense that can score some points.

It should be a fun one in the Alerus Center as the Hawks look to get a winning streak underway and make a playoff run.