(the old school NDSU football game picture because both teams play defense)
It’s Thursday night and they haven’t called the game at UNI yet. The fiasco at Vermillion leaves you with an empty feeling that anything can happen. No control over that, so let’s jump into the Herd playing the Panthers this Saturday.
UNI comes into the game at 3 wins & 3 losses. Folks they’re the best three loss team in the country. They lost to the Jacks with 19 seconds left; they missed a last second field goal against Southern Illinois and lost 17-16 and without their starting QB they only generated 6 points and lost to Mo. State 13-6. They very easily could be 6-0 and the number one team in the FCS.
Why aren’t they? They can’t run the ball. I said in the preseason if they couldn’t get to averaging over 150 YPG on the ground and tote it at a rate of over 4 yards per carry (YPC) or more, they would stay out of the championship bracket. To date they are averaging 106.3 YPG and 3.21 YPC. In the three losses they have gotten 68.7 YPG and 2.4 YPC. Hence, UNI’s offense is one dimensional. They have to stretch the field with Weston and McShane. The pass only formula hasn’t worked against the Herd the last three years and I don’t think it will play this spring.
UNI does play stellar defense, which consistently puts them in close hard fought games. When you play a Farley team they are going to line up and smack you. That is a given for this week. For the Herd to win, they have to play a clean game in penalties and win the turn over battle. I think the biggest factor in the Bison’s favor is getting Luepke back on the field. Pre-UND, we were trying to be the Ram ground game without an experienced big back. That’s why I am not going to dwell on our rushing stats, which are good for the year (228.3 YPG and 5.5 YPC). With Luepke back and supported by a maturing Gonnella, we have two quality big backs.
Some of the unknowns for Saturday are how will the Herds layoff from games since UND effect our sharpness and how sharp will UNI’s QB, Will McElvain, be after not playing since March 13th against the Salukis.
I think the game is going to be much like the Illinois State game for the offense. The Rams will have to wear down a strong front seven with Watson, Gindorff, Babicz and company stretching the field with play action passes. Zeb and Cam will have to hit the receivers consistently.
Code Green will have to stop UNI’s run game and put pressure on McElvain with sacks and hurries. McElvain isn’t a big run threat but he is very mobile and is good at expanding the pocket with his legs, so the pass rush will need to stay in their lanes.
To sum everything up, I think both defenses negate the other (a draw). I favor the Bison because I think the Rams powered run game is vastly superior to UNI’s and will only get better with Luepke totting the ball. I go with Vegas’ latest spread of 8.5 points. If either team breaks it open, I think it will be the Bison.