Who Wins the Nickel Trophy?
Oh ya, so much for good North Dakota traditions. No more Siouxage jokes either. But come Saturday there is still a big game to play for both squads. If UND loses, they become one of those dreaded bubble teams at 7-4. If the Herd wins, it should lock in a top 4 seed. Both should make the playoffs win or lose, but you want to go into the playoffs with a head of steam.
This has been a frustrating year following the Bison as they have not found their normal flow of building toward the playoffs. Their two best (complete) games were YSU and ISU. Injuries, TO’s, penalties, bad refereeing and coaching blunders kept you thinking what wheel is going to come off the wagon next.
I want to address any criticisms of the coaching with that these guys have the best record in college football, but just as players can have bad plays or games, so do coaches. When they pulled Cam after the penalty against the Jacks for taunting and inserting Cole and having him throw a pass; that probably cost the game. It wasn’t fair to either Cam or Cole. This past week versus SIU, the Salukis get a three yard punt. We have great field position and call three straight runs of 6, 8 and 9 yards. We have a 2nd and one at their 40. We have them on the run (already did a 75 yard scoring drive). So we call a pass and Cam is sacked for 11 yard loss. When you’re on a roll, make them stop you.
Ross Uglem asked Entz this week at the Monday press conference about the reffing and wrote about it in his film review of the game. Wertz didn’t touch the punt, so we recovered it. Baker was over the line on a first down drive when they got the FG (minus 3 points). Zach Mathis was interfered (pulled down). All refs should be graded during the season by a committee of former refs, retired coaches and technical specialists. SIU’s review crew should be fired!! Same with ref who called Cam for taunting; I’ve seen numerous players celebrate more dramatically than Cam did and not get penalized Refs should call the games, have competent video review crews and have accountability by the review board.
So with ten games under our belts, where are we at?
We are still pounding the rock. We rank 5th in FCS in rushing and are averaging 5.9 YPC. We are 3rd in third down conversion percentage at 54%. We are 9th in nation in pass completions at 69% and 22nd in scoring at 34.1 PPG.
Code Green has firmed up. The DT’s are growing up. Having Wiz back & Kopp’s emerging, the LB room is in good shape. We finally are hanging on to INTs. We rank 6th in scoring defense, 3rd in passing defense and 5th in total D. I believe Eli Mostaert is coming back for the playoffs!
Our Stats are not far off the streak of greatness norms. We need to find the consistency these teams had.
Now to this week’s game; how good are these 7-3 feathered (Hawks) Dakotans?
I want to start by looking at some key stats from other 7-3 FCS teams. Austin Peay won’t beat the Crimson Tide this week, but they have stats befitting a 7-3 team. I start with what is their margin of victory or point spreads. They score 34.7 PPG and give up 21.6. These numbers are in keeping with a 7-3 team. Their total yardage for offense and defense reflect this success the Gov’s have gaining 445.6 YPG and yielding only296.2. They also win the third down battle converting 43.6% to their opponents29.9%. Here are the Montana Griz’s numbers: 38.9 PPG to 14.9, they amass 410 YPG to 290.7. On 3rd Downs they convert 47.6 % to29.9% for their foes. Delaware’s numbers look like this: 27.8PPG vs14.9, 407.5 total yards per game vs 280.9 YPG and 3rd Downs are 42.5% vs 33.6% Chattanooga, Mercer and S E Louisiana are all 7-3 teams. All have more points, total yards and 3rd D % than their opponents. Where are you going Dober?
UND is the poster child for this weird duck year of statistical anomalies. UND scores 31.2 PPG and gives up 29, a whopping scoring margin of 2.1 PPG. They gain 380.1 YPG and yield 382.1. They average 46.7% on 3rd downs while opponents convert 50.9% of the time. All these stats scream a 500 team.
You look at TOP and they control the ball 34:42 to 25:18. That is absurd! This also isn’t generated by a dominant running game. Hawks gain 140.1 YPG to their foes 136.7. But foes are more efficient with 4.8 YPC to UND’s 4.1. You say, they must be much better in pass completions? Not really 70.4% to 66.6%. Then they have more passing yards? No. Opponents average 245.5 YPG to Hawks 240.1. Surely UND dominates turnovers? No a meager +1 in that category 8 take aways to 7.
They have won the close games, starting with UNI, 29-27 (with bad defense played by all). Unranked N AZ scores go ahead TD at home with 1:43 left in game to take 24-20 lead. They let Hawks score in 53 seconds on a 75 yard drive. N AZ outgained UND 448 yards to 318. Only TO was a pick 6 by Hawks. Hawks take a good YSU team down on the road 35-30. A 4th quarter blocked punt for a TD is the difference in a game where the Penguins outgained UND 458 to 385. They beat Abilene Christian 34-31. This 3 point margin came with 13 seconds left in the first half when ACU punts for 17 yards (indoors folks, that shouldn’t happen). One pass to ACU’s 19, then the FG.
It is clear the ball has bounced UND’s way this year. Being out gained by your opponents and a 2.1 PPG margin of victory is not a winning playoff strategy.
A final comparison needs to be made on how the Bison and UND fared against the good opponents on their schedules (teams ranked above 150 in Sagarin). Those who follow me know I dig deep in these stats, especially for the Natty.
UND has played six such teams and is 3-3 against them. Three of these teams are shared games with the Bison (SIU, YSU & SDSU). The three non-shared opponents are Nebraska, Mo. State and UNI. UND’s margin of victory is a minus 4.5 PPG against these six opponents having yielded 35 PPG and 415 YPG.
With the three shared opponents UND had a minus 8.3 PPG spread. They were 1-2 against YSU, SIU and SDSU. These 3 MVFC teams averaged 37.3 PPG and gained 405 YPG.
NDSU faced 5 teams in this class (ISU was under 150 when they played the Bison, since then they lost their starting QB and lost a squeaker to YSU19-17). Also figured in this mix were the AZ Wildcats. We were 3-2 with a 2 pt loss to Jacks and a 3 pt loss to AZ. Our margin of victory is plus 5.6. We held these teams to 18.6 PPG and allowed only 312.2 YPG.
With the three shared opponents our point spread is plus 4.7 PPG and we held them to 315.6 YPG.
Folks, these are the numbers Vegas look at. That’s why the Herd is a 13.5 point favorite.
What do I want to see Saturday? How many of you saw Christian Watson’s three TD’s last Sunday. After he scored the first he did a back flip (6’5” 208 lbs, WOW!). What an athlete! Last fall he had no targets or touches against UND. Tyler and Randy you can and need to do better game planning this year!
We need to let Cam run the game like he did against the Red Birds (ISU has a vastly superior defense than UND). UND runs the same three man front and blitzes their LB’s like the Red Birds. Cam called 30 pass plays. If we don’t score 30+ points and gain over 400 yards the coaching staff didn’t do their job or the team didn’t execute. This is game 11, NO EXCUSES!
The Herd has superior talent in the OL and for that matter, up and down the lineup. UND is a 500 performing team masquerading as a playoff qualifier. Code Green and Rams, call them out this Saturday! Go Bison!