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Can the Panthers Derail the Herd?

I believe in accountability in my previews and since the UND game fell under my expectations, I feel I should comment/analyze and also tie into this week’s big matchup with UNI (which is an overall stronger team than UND). I said if offense didn’t make it to 30 points and the defense didn’t keep UND from scoring 20, neither unit could consider it getting the job done.

Code Green should have had a shutout. They did their job. Ross Uglem shows on their “trick” TD pass conclusively that UND lined up in an illegal formation (5 men behind line of scrimmage). Refs have specific duties they check before the snap. The line judge checks to see if anyone is lining up offside (offense or defense). I think it’s the back judge who counts noses (11 on field versus 12 and 4 in backfield versus 5). Whosever job it was, they blew it plain and simple. If UND trailed 16-0 with 17 seconds left they would be going for a TD, not a FG. Hence, Code Green would have delivered another shut out.

Add in that Code Green held one of the preeminent FCS backs to under 100 yards and put pressure on Schuster all day. It was a good day defensively.

Bison fans have to tap the breaks on expectations that the Herd is going to beat everybody 42-10. Every year (including our three unbeaten years of 2013 when we had to score two 4th QTR TD’s to beat UNI 24-23, 2018 we needed to score in 4th QTR to beat Jack’s 21-17 and 2019 wasn’t exactly blowing IL State off the field in a 9-3 game in the playoffs).

As a player I remember getting back to the Sigma Chi frat house after getting like the 23rd win in what ultimately was a 35 game unbeaten string and having someone ask what was wrong. They thought we should win by 40 and we only beat USD 24-21 on the road. As a team we were celebrating a good, hard fought road win and some of our fans are upset it wasn’t larger. I went away in my mind being reminded first and foremost I am playing for the respect of my coaches and fellow players and what Izzy constantly reminded us of, “BISON PRIDE”!

Saturday the offense did half the job, but the most important one, they ran the ball effectively (226 yards and 5.3 YPC). A key play to start the 2nd half really kept us from getting two scores ahead. QPII picked up a double blitz from the outside and hit Kobe Johnson in stride 20 yards down the seam (most likely would have taken it to the house). But he didn’t. The play book never opened up after that.

I don’t think this slowness on using the passing game is ability or talent based. Quincy has the arm, the Rams block good and we have receivers who are good. I think the biggest issue right now is flow and experience. QPII didn’t get the benefit of a red shirt year under an NFL QB or a year and a half to assimilate our very complicated offensive system. We forget program wise Trey should be starting his Jr. Year running the offense. I believe these issues are fixable and they have to be if we are to get the MVFC and National Championship trophies. I also believe Roehl and Hedberg need to up their game as well in adjusting during a game and in setting up a balanced offense.

Where does that lead to in facing the UNI Panthers this week in the Dome?

Code Green faces a rejuvenated Panther offense. Even though they change offensive coordinators more frequently than a new born changes diapers (five since the last time they beat us in 2014), they seem to have found some consistency in their run game averaging 164 YPG after the last four years of 103, 110,133 & 119.

They have three transfers who are sharing the load. Dom Williams 5’10” 200 lbs, a Kansas transfer, has 46 carries for 332 yards (7.2 YPC), Bradrick Shaw 6’1” 225 lbs, from Cal, has 23 carries for 122 yards (5.3 YPC) and Vance McShane 5’6” 190, an NAIA transfer and brother of WR Deon McShane, has 16 carries for 116 yards (7.3 YPC). They haven’t shown a QB run game yet, but could have it up their sleeve with new QB Theo Day 6’2” 225 lbs, a Michigan State transfer, who has 9 carries for 56 yards (6.2 YPC).

They run behind an OL that averages 326.6 lbs (this will be by far the biggest OL Code Green faces this year). Even with this size they don’t seem to manhandle people and don’t seem overly athletic (pulling and being light on their feet). In the first four games, IA State quashed this unit allowing only 45 yards for the game. Getting lots of yards (219 & 5.2 YPC) on a mediocre Big Sky team, Sacramento State, and a newbie to the FCS, St. Thomas (193 & 6.2 YPC) doesn’t really give an accurate gauge on what to expect. Thrashing Youngstown State is in the same category as they are one of the worst defenses statistically in the FCS (108/123 & giving up 468.2 YPG, while allowing 170.5 YPG rushing and yielding 38.8 PPG).

The Panthers are a balanced attack with Isaiah Weston, a WR in Christian Watson’s league for taking the top off. He is 6’4” 200 lbs. They compliment him with Deion McShane and Quan Hampton, who are fast and sure handed. Even with all these weapons, UNI is only averaging 348.8 YPG in total offense (good for 67th in the FCS, right in the middle of 123 FCS teams).

The Panther’s strength, as usual, is in their defense. Old snarly Farley knows how to recruit and develop defensive players. His units are consistently in the top 20 in the defensive statistics that count, 2021 is no different with these numbers. Scoring D (10.5 PPG, 5th in FCS), Total D (286.2 YPG, 15th) and run D (80 YPG for 10th in Nation).

Now that IL State lost their massive nose guard and pro prospect, John Ridgeway, to the transfer portal, UNI has the best D Lineman in the MVFC with Jared Brinkman 6’2” 290 lbs. The rest of that unit is big and strong and is backed by a mobile and hard hitting LB corp. They probably have two of the bet DB’s in the country with Omar Brown and Benny Sapp III.

How does this translate for Saturday?

This is, to me, as big a test for the Herd as the Jacks. We have to bring our A game, because I think they are really sick of no wins since 2014. I expect them to be at A+ in their game. We can’t lose the TO battle nor can we take a play off in special teams.

What advantages do I see the Bison have? I think our OL is better than theirs, giving us a chance to move the ball on the ground as IA State did (4.1 YPC). This will allow for the play action pass game. I don’t see UNI stunting every play like UND. I think the pressure Quincy brings as a true dual threat QB with a codified QB run game is something they haven’t faced this year

Defensively, I think Code Green is in the same league with IA State, who shut the Panther’s run game down. But Ron, IA State was an FBS program. Let’s blow this myth up once and for all. NDSU plays just as well as any non top 10 FBS school. Just look at our stats versus FBS. In our five wins (2011-14 & 2016) we allowed only 83.4 YPG rushing (3 YPC) and in the last four wins that has shrunk to 62.3 YPG (2.5 YPC). KSU and Iowa were the defending Big 12 & Big 10 champions and made a bowl game the year we beat them. If we play our game we can stop UNI! Oh and also, we have averaged 214 YPG rushing in these wins, so yes I think we can mount a run game versus the Panthers. Since 2017 we have gotten 168, 344, 347 and 155 (spring game) with YPC’s of 4.1, 7.2, 6.8 and 3.8.

Vegas have the Herd a 6.5 point favorite. Unless TO’s rear their ugly head for either side I think this will be a close, hard fought game. It will be UNI’s last chance at our hide because the just released MVFC schedules don’t have us playing the Panthers the next two years. As for Saturday, I am going to give the Herd the home field advantage. They win again. Go Bison!!

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