It wasn’t pretty and it sure as heck wasn’t sexy but UND found a way to win a crucial football game on Saturday and solidify it’s position atop the Big Sky standings. The 27-19 victory over Weber State kept UND unbeaten (6-0) in Big Sky play and improved their record to 7-2 overall.
- The UND kickoff return team set the bar high on the first play of the game when John Santiago housed the opening kickoff untouched. This was the play of the game, no question. Without that, the game has a completely different complexion.
- Kickoff coverage has been subpar all year overall, but Saturday leaves us very concerned. Probably the worst game for the kickoff team that we can remember in a while. Besides a perceived lack of effort by a few members of the team, they are trying to kick from one hash to the opposite deep corner. Weber picked up on this based on kicker Reid Taubenheim’s alignment pre-kick (we assume) and set up the return down that far hash. UND was simply outnumbered on those kicks because the five UND players to the short side have to run way too far to help squeeze the return.
- The UND Defense gets the game ball. Minus a few longer plays and lapses, they were fantastic overall. They had 7 sacks and forced 4 turnovers while holding the Weber offense to 286 total yards and 3-16 on 3rd down conversions. Still lots of room for improvement here too, particularly in the secondary.
- Cole Reyes had the “game changing” day that he’s capable of. The defense is totally different when he plays. While he did get beat on a corner route for a TD by a tight end, it was a very well executed throw and catch. You could also argue that Deion Harris didn’t do his best to help out on that play. Regardless, sometimes the other team makes plays and you have to tip your hat. Reyes ended the game with two interceptions.
- UND leads the nation in interceptions with an astounding 16 through nine games. They notched three more on Saturday.
- DE Drew Greely was extremely active all day and caused major problems for Weber in the second half. How is this for a stat line: 4 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2.5 TFL’s, 1 FF, and 1 pass breakup.
- #3 Darryl Denby was a handful for UND in the first half. Weber lined him up in the slot meaning UND’s safeties, Zach Arnell or Cole Reyes would be across from him. He was too quick at times and really gave them fits.
- The pass interference call on Weber in the end zone was a horrible call. UND benefitted greatly from it as they went down to score a TD and take the lead. The Big Sky refs struggled again on Saturday after having a good couple weeks.
- UND is really running their draw plays well as of late. Very effective vs. Idaho State and Brady Oliveira scored untouched from 17 out this week.
- Offensively, there’s really no nice way to say it, but UND was simply awful overall. 212 yards. Keaton Studsrud going down had something to do with that obviously, but the offensive pace when he was in was pedestrian as well. 7-15 for 41 yards passing will kill UND moving forward. 4-15 on 3rd down vs. a good defense won’t cut it come playoff time.
- Keaton Studsrud went down with an apparent throwing shoulder injury. The injury sounds to be of the lighter AC joint variety, which is good news. There is a chance he plays this weekend but it will probably be a game time decision if he is progressing during the week.
- Backups Ryan Bartels and Brad Heidlebaugh both saw action, but Bartels also got knicked too we believe. We think Bartels gets the nod this week if Studsrud can’t go because of the experience factor. QB play could make or break UND next week out in Greeley.
- The 34 yard reverse by Travis Toivonen was a thing of beauty. Studsrud handed the jet sweep to true freshman Noah Wanzek, who then flipped it back to Toivonen who was heading the opposite direction. That is not easy to pull off, especially for two true freshmen. The timing was damn near perfect.
- One bright spot for the UND offense was no turnovers.
- UND’s turnover margin this year now sits at +13. Good for 5th in all of FCS.
- We still maintain that there needs to be more of Santiago and Oliveira on the field together. You can do so many different things with them both in the game. The defense really has some things to think about whether you line them both up in the backfield together, or put Santiago in the slot.
- UND offense needs to have more of a screen game to slow down opposing defenses. RB ‘slip’ and ‘swing’ screens could be huge plays for them. Defenses are just pinning their ears back right now and teeing off.
That was a big win for UND and their resume. Weber is now 5-3 and with one more win would have a winning record, which is big.
UND now heads out to Greeley to take on Northern Colorado, who is suddenly 5-3 on the year after a wild shootout win over Portland State last weekend.
Feature Image courtesy of: Conor Knuteson, UNDsports.com.