It’s time for your weekly scouting report brought to you by BWahlberg on the eGriz forums!
The Griz are 1-0 after a hot start and cool finish that did just enough to hang on for the win, meanwhile Drake is coming to town after their game last week was stopped and cancelled due to storms shortly after it started.
Drake last year was a decent team within their conference, they finished with a 7-4 record, 6-2 of which was in conference. That placed them 2nd overall behind San Diego who was the conference’s auto-bid.
Drake is expected to compete again for the Pioneer. They’re picked 3rd in the conference by media and coaches. Their press release states they return 23 starters… (going to assume we’re including some special teams starters).
Looking at their depth chart Drake will start 3 juniors and 8 seniors on defense and 7 seniors, 3 juniors, and 1 sophomore on offense. In many aspects this is a veteran team with a lot of playing experience.
Without anything really to scout on Drake this year, here’s a few sample games from last season:
7-77 loss vs South Dakota: This was Drake’s opening game and played on their home field, ouch. South Dakota wound up getting into the playoffs last year despite losing their last 3 games and then went on to beat Nicholls in the first round before losing to SHSU. USD was up 56-7 at the half, this game was a total beatdown. USD had almost 600 yards of fairly even split offense while Drake finished with -7 rushing yards.
10-51 loss vs South Dakota State: SDSU went up 34-0 and kept cruising from there. SDSU didn’t really have that much in yards, just 377 total. Looks like Drake gave up a kick return TD plus was pretty bad on punt coverage setting up some short fields.
38-13 win vs Valparaiso: The only common opponent on their schedule. Last year the Griz in their opener beat Valpo 45-23. In that game Valpo ran for 150 and passed for almost 340 yards. Against Drake, Valpo didn’t have that kind of success. It was close at the half with Drake holding a 17-13 lead, but they pulled away in the 2nd half and kept Valpo from scoring again. Valpo ran for 110 and passed for 185, while Drake put up almost 450 passing yards on them (Montana had 400 passing last year on Valpo). Valpo also tossed 3 picks.
15-45 loss vs San Diego: In the game that turned out to decide the conference championship San Diego put it to Drake, rushing for 122 and passing for 330 yards with 38:00 of TOP and converted a stunning 11 of 15 3rd down attempts. This San Diego team would go on to beat NAU in the first round of the playoffs 41-10.
General Stats (using UM’s first game vs Drake’s last year)
Passing yards per game Montana (273 for UM vs 260 for DU)
Rushing yards per game Drake (75 rush ypg for UM vs 118 rush ypg for DU)
Total offense Drake (348 for the Griz vs 378 for DU)
Passing yards allowed per game Montana (164 ypg allowed vs 200 ypg allowed)
Rushing yards allowed per game Montana (104 ypg allowed vs 136 ypg allowed)
Total defense Montana (268 ypg allowed vs 336 ypg allowed)
For what it’s worth I suppose, UM has 4 while Drake has 2.
Offense points scored DU (26 vs 26.8)
Defense points allowed Montana (23 vs 25.4)
Turnover margin Montana – UM is +1 while DU was +/- 0
Fieldgoal % Montana – 100% for Montana / 75% for DU
Punt Returns Montana (12.3 YPR vs 6.1 YPR)
Kick Returns Montana (18.5 for UM vs 17.6 for DU)
T.O.P. DU (30:04 for DU vs 29:13 for UM)
Red Zone defense (touchdowns) Drake (UM 100% / DU 74% )
Red Zone offense (touchdowns) Drake (56% DU / 50% UM)
3rd down offense PUSH (both converts 41% of the time)
3rd down defense Montana (UM 33% / DU 43%)
Again, not the greatest comparison of numbers as we’re comparing one Montana game to a prior full season of work. However Montana adds 6 while Drake adds 4 and there’s 1 push. That puts the teams at 10 for Montana, 6 for Drake, 1 push.
Players to Watch:
#15 Grant Kraemer, QB: Kraemer is a 5th year senior and their returning starting QB. He’s 6-3, 228 pounds. Last year he averaged 261 yards per game with a 61% completion. 20 TDs to 10 INTs. Not much of a runner but needs to be accounted for when he scrambles out of the pocket, he did have 2 rushing TDs last year.
#81 Stephen Doran, WR: This 6-3, 218 pound WR was the main target in their pass-heavy offense last year. He averaged about 80 yards per game, had 8 TDs on the season and averaged almost 21 yards per catch!
#22 Mitch McFarlane, WR: Another tall 6-3 WR, McFarlane missed 3 games last year and still finished with the 2nd most receptions, 2nd most yards (523), and 3rd best in receiving TDs with 3.
#1 Devin Cates, WR: Cates is the 3rd starting WR we’ll see as well. A 6-4, 243 pound receiver he had 446 yards and 2 TDs last season.
#25 Cross Robinson, RB: Drake graduated it’s top RBs last year, Robinson was listed the starter last week and I believe scored their sole TD before the game was called. He’s a big dude, 6 feet and 225 pounds. I see no stats for him last year as he redshirted but was named the team’s scout player of the year.
#99 Danny Donley, K: Yep, I’m listing a 5-4, 158 pound kicker to watch. He’s a senior and appears to be a solid kicker. Was their kickoff specialist before last year, hit 75% of his kicks and all of his PATs last year, looks like he’s a guy they can rely on to even hit 50+ yarders.
#46 Nathan Clayberg, DE: A 6-5, 282 pound D-lineman and one of their team captains. Clayberg had 44 tackles, 5 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, and 3 QB hits last year. He’s on the all-Pioneer conference team already.
#23 Sean Lynch, DB: We’ll see the 5-9, 180 all-conference player at free safety. He lead the team in tackles last season with 72 tackles. He was 2nd best on the team with 2 interceptions. Also on the all-Pioneer conference team.
#34 Kieran Sivera, LB: The 2nd leading tackler last year with 66 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 6.5 TFLs, 1 INT and 1 forced fumble. He’s 6-0, 215 pound 5th year senior.
#21 Will Warner, DB: Lining up next to Lynch at Strong Safety, Warner is a 6-3, 201 pound DB that lead the team with 3 interceptions last season, but only played in 8 games and made just 14 tackles. Kind of an odd stat line but still was an honorable mention once the season ended.
Keys to a Grizzly victory
1. Win in the trenches & run the ball. Drake has two interior linemen that are over 280 and two D-ends that are 230 and 250 and it’s an experienced group with 2 juniors and 2 seniors listed as 5th year seniors. Add in that the LB corps for Drake includes 3 seniors. This is an experienced front 7 our O-line will face and they need to show significantly better than they did last week.
2. Maintain momentum. We saw great energy and attention to detail give way to a loss of an edge in the 2nd half last week. This should be an excellent game to continually focus on making sure in all aspects of the game the Griz keep firing.
3. Let ST flip the field. I liked what I saw in the first half of last week’s game and didn’t like what I saw in the 2nd half. I’m sure that’s been a big point of emphasis for practice this week. If the Griz with JLM and Flowers and Calhoun can flip the field, and if Williams can pin DU deep, that’ll really help.
4. Force those turnovers. Last week we saw 4 fumbles get recovered by UNI and 2 picks bounce of DB’s hands. Gotta capitalize on that this week!
5. More pressure from the D-line. With a pass-heavy attack and an experienced WR corps I’m going to guess the Grizzly defense won’t be as aggressive all the time this week in blitzes. We’re going to need those front 4 dudes to manufacture a little more pressure on their own.
6. Don’t get beat deep. Based on the size of these WRs I forsee a lot of jump balls, but hopefully the corners and safeties can keep everything in front of them and not let this passing game for Drake burn them badly.
7. Flip those redzone margins. The Griz gave up 3 TDs when UNI entered the red zone on 3 attempts. Not good. Meanwhile the Griz only scored 2 TDs in 4 visits to the UNI red zone and one resulted in a missed PAT. Again… not optimal. That’s a recipe for future issues, let’s not let this become the normal.
8. Give Sneed some time. Dalton Sneed seemed to really be rattled by the amount of hits he took in the first half, to which he gave way to running way too early in the 2nd half. The blocking needs to help him out more this week so he can have more time to go through progressions and not rely entirely on just running away.
In scouting Drake I’ve actually gained more respect for this team to come in here and put up a good fight. If the young Griz write this team off as inferior they stand a chance to get caught by an experienced/battle tested team. I don’t foresee that happening, but after digging into these guys a little more it has shaken a bit of my confidence. What I know is that the coaching staff will do all they can not to allow that, this is an experienced crew and they’ll remind our guys of how important the focus this week needs to be.
What I’d say is that if we get the 1st half Griz this will probably be a big win, if we get the 2nd half Griz… this game might be a toss-up. I’ll say for now, at home, coming off a big win, the Griz start to smooth out some of the issues we saw last week and win, but not in the most convincing fashion, 38-17.