Last week Missouri State stunned the Hawks with two touchdowns in the 4th quarter to pull out a victory. This week it was the Fighting Hawks turn.
UND came back from down 21-10 on Saturday to beat the Youngstown State Penguins 24-21 and up their record to 4-5 on the season.
The Hawks now have another home game this coming Saturday when they take on the always tough Illinois State Redbirds, who just upset Northern Iowa last weekend.
QB Tommy Schuster had a very nice game and led the offense very efficiently. The Hawks only put up 354 yards and 24 points but Schuster bailed them out of some bad situations with his feet and his head. Pass protection was just OK most of the day partly due to YSU loading the box and using an aggressive pass rush with numbers to get after the Hawks. Schuster ended the game going 23-35 for 191 yards and 2 TD’s vs 1 INT.
It is becoming quite apparent that Schuster and Bo Belquist are very good at playground, scramble football. Schuster found Belquist twice in the back of the end zone once the pocket collapsed and Tommy needed to improvise. Belquist shows a nice knack for getting open once the original route is over.
The Penguins held Otis Weah down most of the game but as Coach Schweigert alluded to in the post-game presser, it was only a matter of time before he popped one due to YSU loading the box and playing man-to-man on the outside receivers. That leaves no run support if the play pops and Otis made them pay late in the fourth quarter to give UND the 24-21 lead.
When watching the replay below, you will notice that the Penguins have 8 guys all tucked in from tight end to tackle. They must have been misaligned a bit because they had no alley player on the trips side, or at least a linebacker widened out to maintain leverage on an outside running play. Otis saw this and quickly bounced the inside zone play to his right and shot right through that vacated alley for the touchdown.
You will also notice the three defenders at the bottom of the screen – they are all playing man-to-man and not even looking at the ball. #23 even flies up to cover the quick out look by Belquist, all while Otis runs right by him. UND saw this quite a bit in the Big Sky and it’s definitely feast or famine to play that way.
The Hawks defense got off to a shaky start, once again, but settled in nicely, once again, to shutdown the Penguins over the last half of the game. UND has a knack for giving up a first drive TD (I believe it was their 4th of the season), then giving up some decent yards on the next drive, but then figuring out what the offense is doing blocking-scheme wise and making solid adjustments. They did just that again on Saturday.
It appears that UND changed their run fits after getting hurt early and had one extra hat up there to make the tackle (typically a safety). With YSU not being able to and unwilling to throw the ball downfield, it made sense to walk another guy up and fit things up differently. The two-running back look was a bit different for the Penguins and gave UND problems on that first drive but as I mentioned the Hawks figured it out and fit it well after that.
Saturday was a coming out party for OLB Marcus Vaugh-Jones. Thrust into action due to injuries Vaughn-Jones played like a wild man vs YSU, notching a beautiful INT where he went up high and ripped it away from the wide receiver. He also had 1.5 TFL’s and a forced fumble.
The 4th and 3 blitz by UND to sack QB Demeatric Crenshaw and force the turnover on downs was a gutsy call by DC Brett Holinka. They left their secondary one-on-one across the board with the game on the line and it paid off.
This blitz version shown below is where all four linebackers come meaning the Hawks bring seven and cover with four. The pocket collapses from all sides and the game was sealed with that play.
The Hawks notched four sacks and had a chance for several more. The pressure was outstanding all day and forced YSU to resort to quick throws that got the ball out quickly. I am not sure if they threw downfield once all game.
UND held the Penguins to 278 total yards and only 4-11 on third down.
Youngstown was able to rush for 203 yards on 45 carries, which isn’t ideal, but part of that was due to the play of RB Jaleel McLaughlin. That kid is the real deal and gave UND fits all day with his combination of speed, quickness and surprising power. He was tough to bring down and was able to run away from guys at times, as well. There is a reason they give him the ball ALOT – McLaughlin ended the game with 122 yards on 18 carries to go along with 7 catches for 39 yards.
I mentioned pass protection earlier as an issue and it was but I must also factor in the aggressive nature of the YSU game plan. UND needed to get the ball out quick, which isn’t uncommon for them, or Tommy had to flee the pocket quite a bit. There were a few too many breakdowns again for my liking but after was all said and done the Hawks gave up ZERO sacks once again.
For the third time this season UND forced a turnover on an opponent punt and didn’t score any points off it. The first two were punt blocks and the one Saturday was simply the punter dropping the snap, which allowed Jacob Odom to fall on it and setup UND at the YSU 30 yard line. However, the Hawks proceeded to lose one yard on the possession ending in a missed field goal. Capitalizing on big turnovers like that is crucial.
The Hawks play their final home game of the 2021 season this Saturday vs. a surging Illinois State team (4-5). The Redbirds play a ton of defense and play it well. Their offense is ball control and they try to win games in the 20’s. Should be a physical, MVFC battle!