That was just what the doctor ordered for the UND football team on Saturday. The offense moved the ball at will, the defense took over early and special teams were solid.

Thunder Lake Lodge

All that added up to a 34-10 Homecoming victory for the Hawks that raised their record to 3-4 but more importantly kept their slim playoff chances alive.

UND now heads out on the road again, this time to Springfield, MO to take on the Missouri State Bears (4-3).

The Good

Where to begin. There was a whole lot of good on Saturday but I would say the offensive explosion & consistency would lead the way. The Hawks amassed 607 yards of total offense (261 rushing) on an impressive 81 plays, their second week of running more than 80 plays in a game. That is both good and bad as it wears down the opposing defense but also shows that UND isn’t breaking many long scoring plays.

The UND run game came alive and it’s no coincidence that Otis Weah returned this week. Weah rushed for 125 yards on 18 carries and also caught 3 passes for 73 yards.

Otis is a difference-maker, we all know that. But when he plays like “Spring Otis”, this offense is different. It’s fast, it’s efficient, it’s energetic, and it’s fun! No play stood out to me more than one that was fairly insignificant in the grand scheme of things but showed how important Weah is to this team.

On 3rd and 10 on the first drive of the game UND threw a screen pass to Otis and he made the first defender miss, then dragged the next guy for three extra yards that got UND the first down. No other back on the roster could’ve gotten that first down. The Hawks went on to score a touchdown and take a 7-0 lead. Here is a clip of the play:

WIU only amassed four TFL’s and had zero sacks. This is the second week in a row where UND has mostly avoided negative plays and not allowed sacks. When the Hawks are moving forward at all times, even if it’s only 1-2 yards, they seem to get a nice rhythm and play in sync, as a team.

This offense just looks better. They look like they are having more fun and gelling as a unit. Great to see and yes I would’ve loved for them to get into the end zone more as they came up empty several times but they moved the ball so well to get there that I am not going to discount that part of it.

NO FALSE STARTS!! On top of that UND only had 3 penalties for 18 yards. Trending the right way.

Tommy Schuster played his best game of the season, IMO. Very poised and ran the offense without a hitch, really. Schuster ended the day 21-32 for 274 yards and 1 TD. He has looked much more comfortable the last couple weeks and his decision-making has been impressive. His lone TD pass was to Brock Boltmann, who is starting to get his legs back under him after being injured all spring and summer. We haven’t even seen the ‘Brockstar’ formation yet, either.

Bo Belquist had another monster game – catching 8 balls for 142 yards and 1 TD. Belquist is also coming off a spring injury but really had a nice homecoming game.

The emergence of Gaven Ziebarth was awesome to see and quite the debut for the freshman from Cambridge, MN. Ziebarth ran the ball 15 times for 110 yards and looked very fluid running the jet sweeps. UND had trouble running between the tackles based on how WIU was playing things so they turned to the outside stuff and Ziebarth showed good speed doing it. I am not sure how long Luke Skokna and Isaiah Smith are going to be out but Ziebarth provided a nice backup to Weah vs. Western Illinois and certainly is going to be counted on in the coming weeks.

The UND defense was outstanding most of the day. WIU only garnered 330 yards of total offense and 10 points. Their lone touchdown came in the first quarter on a long 51 yard TD pass to Dallas Daniels. WIU is an explosive outfit who has given teams fits all year and they were bound to get something and Daniels showed impressive speed in pulling away from the UND defenders.

Over the next 50 game minutes UND only gave up one field goal (2nd quarter).

UND held the Leathernecks to 2-13 on third down.

The Hawks secondary is legit, folks. The combination of C.J. Siegel, Evan Holm, and Caleb Nelson, combined with Sam Robertson at times is becoming a shut down unit. They held Landon Lenoir to 4 catchs for 51 yards last week and this week they kept Dennis Houston in check (7 catches for 61 yards). Nelson had a very nice game with a big hit deep in UND’s end that broke up a reception and another breakup on a deep shot to Houston. Siegel made the perfect breakup later in the game when he batted the ball up in the air, allowing Sammy Fort to run in and grab it for the interception. Tip Drill 101.

DE Ben McNaboe had a big day notching a sack and a gorgeous interception where he hole dropped from his end position. QB Connor Sampson didn’t see McNaboe and threw it right to him.

UND only punted once all day but the one that Cade Peterson did kick was a banger. He drilled a high spiral for 55 yards that drove returner Tony Tate back inside his 10 yard line. A penalty on the play pushed them back to their own 6 yard line.

The Bad

The end of the first half situation was a cluster, yes, but after looking at it again I can understand the confusion a bit more. UND thought it had the first down on the 3rd and 1 run by Otis. The refs didn’t immediately signal 4th down or 1st down. So Tommy thought he was going to line up and spike it but found out several seconds later that they were short – the problem is they had no timeouts and now no time to run the field goal team on. So Tommy took the snap, smartly, and scrambled to try and make something happen. It was a screwup all around but running inside on 3rd and 1 with no timeouts is a gamble and this time it didn’t pay off.

The inside running game struggled to get traction most of the day. That happens at times when teams are stout inside or crash ends down and still fill inside with their linebackers. That was happening vs WIU so UND reverted to the outside running game and had success that way.

While kickoff coverage was outstanding all of the day, the kick return game didn’t get much going again this week. Holm returned two kicks for only 41 yards.

The Hawks have all their goals still alive even though the margin of error is quite small. This week is the season, folks. A win down in Springfield sets UND up to come back home for two weeks in a row vs. bottom half of the MVFC teams (YSU and ISU). Win those and suddenly they are 6-4 heading down to Brookings!