Well this is quite the interesting matchup, both UM and UND came into this season with hopes to be in better positions than where they are right now. Looking at UND’s record it’s interesting to see that they’ve lost their last 3 games, however it was against 3 ranked teams, Poly, EWU, & NAU. With the Griz coming off a stinging loss to SUU they’re going up against a UND team that’s 2nd in the Big Sky in scoring and who has the 3rd best passing offense in the league. The Griz will have their work cut out.

UND is 3-4:

66-0 win vs South Dakota School of Mines: Never even a close game, a good warm-up game for UND. The Sioux ran for 370 and passed for 285.

45-37 win vs PSU: In a game that featured a ton of first half scoring, UND held off a last PSU comeback to win it. Defense was optional in the first half and by halftime it was 35-24 UND. Lots of big play scores. In the 3rd qtr UND tacked on 10 more points and was holding a 45-24 lead, but PSU stormed back, scoring 13 points. PSU got the score to 45-37 with a little over 2 minutes left in the game and kicked off but could not hold UND to a 3 and out and never got the ball back. Portland’s offense had great success, rushing for 214 and passing for 300, while UND ran for just 107 and passed for 300 themselves. PSU also missed two fieldgoals and tossed two interceptions.

41-49 loss to San Diego St: SDSU was probably hoping to open up a 35-20 halftime lead but suddenly found themselves in a dogfight in the 2nd half being forced to answer UND score for score. UND even had a chance with 2:00 left to tie it up but went 4 and out and that ended the game. UND all but scrapped their running game, with 55 on the ground, but had 434 passing yards! Meanwhile SDSU ran for 300 and passed for 250.

35-13 win vs Sac St: UND was actually out-gained by a total of almost 500 Sac yards to 450 UND yards, however they forced 3 turnovers on Sac, saw Sac miss a PAT and a fieldgoal as well. For giving up 500 yards, it’s awfully impressive they only allowed 2 TDs. For Sac it looked like a lot of bend/don’t break stuff – they’d go 30 or 40 yards but still have to punt, also two of their 3 turnovers were deep inside UND territory.

17-35 loss to Cal Poly: The score is a little deceiving, this was a tight game until late. It was 14-10 Poly at the half and UND scored to go up 17-14 with 13:00 left in the game! Then Poly woke up and capitalized on 3 UND mistakes. UND missed a fieldgoal, Poly answered with a TD to go up 21-17, UND then fumbles the ball away, Poly scores again, 28-17, UND throws a pick, Poly scores yet again, 35-17. Poly put up 320 rushing on UND’s defense, while the Sioux had another solid passing game with 275 in the air. UND had 4 turnovers, missed a fieldgoal, and gave the ball back on downs once.

17-55 loss to EWU: UND scored all 17 of their points in the first 17:00 of the game, roughly, and EWU rolled them after that. UND could get nothing going, losing two fumbles, only passing for 185, and were held to 3.8 ypc rushing. EWU meanwhile ran all over UND, picking up 290 yards and only passing for 168.

38-45 loss to NAU: What a crazy back and forth game. NAU goes up 14-0, but UND rallies and it’s tied at 17-17 at the half. Each team scores 14 points in the 3rd qtr to head into the 4th tied up 31-31. However when trying to answer another NAU touchdown UND fumbles the ball away in the 4th, NAU scores again and grabs a 14 point lead. UND gets another TD with 3:20 left but can’t get the on-side kick following and NAU runs the clock down on the back of a few Zach Baumann first downs. NAU held the ball for almost 40:00 of game clock, they ran for 205 and passed for 365 yards! UND meanwhile ran for 111 and passed for 250. UND looks to have had good success with bigger kick returns after NAU TDs which helped their field position. Both teams had 2 turnovers each and you can see that might’ve been the big difference as NAU scored 14 points off turnovers while UND scored just 3.

Players to watch:

#13 Marcus Hendrickson, QB. Hendrickson shares time a bit with another QB but has a lot more snaps at QB than the other guy, Braden Hanson. Hendrickson is a dual-threat QB and doesn’t make a lot of passing mistakes. He’s averaging about 190 passing yards per game, completing about 57% of his passes. He’s got 15 passing TDs to just 3 ints. He’s also got 242 rushing yards and 1 rushing TD.

#18 Braden Hanson, QB. A taller 6-5 QB, looks like a pocket passer. Highly accurate with a 74% completion percentage, averaging about 190 yards per game, 5 TDs and 1 Int.

#84 Greg Hardin, WR. A shorter/smaller WR, Hardin leads the team in catches (36), yards (610), and TDs (9). He also does kick returns and is pretty good at that, no TDs but a big 26 yard per return average.

#28 Mitch Sutton, RB. Sutton is a bruiser, 6 feet and 230 pounds. He leads the team in rushing with 386 yards and 9 TDs. He’s also got 118 receiving yards so he’ll be getting some passes thrown his way too.

#3 Jake Miller, RB. Mitch’s compliment, Jake is a smaller back and has just a few yards less than him with 376, he’s got just 1 TD this year. Not much of a passing look, only 27 yards receiving.

#83 Jameer Jackson, WR. A big 6-3, 230 pound WR. Jackson has 450 receiving yards and 6 TDs this year. Considering the Grizzlies issues with taller WRs, he might get more looks on Saturday than Hardin.

#53 Garrison Goodman, LB. Leading the team in tackles, Goodman has 42 this year, 3 TFLs, a fumble recovery, and he’s blocked a fieldgoal.

#46 Dominique Bennett, LB. Listed as a linebacker but what appears to be a pass-rush specialist, he’s got a team leading 3.5 sacks, 4.5 TFLs, 1 Int, and 17 total tackles on the season.

#45 Jay Nelson, DE. A smaller d-end, Nelson has 1.5 sacks this season but leads the team with 4 QB hits, he’s forced a fumble and is tied 4th in total tackles with 27.

#17 Chavon Mackey, DB. Listed as a DB, played backup corner last year. He’s 2nd on the team in tackles with 31, he’s also got 3 pass break ups, 2nd best on the team.

#52 Ben Peters, LB. Tied with Mackey in total tackles with 31, he’s got 3 QB hits and 1 forced fumble as well.

General Stats:

– UND has the 2nd best scoring offense in the Big Sky with 37 points/game (UM allows 27.6/game)

– UND has 4th worst scoring defense in the Big Sky, allowing 33.4 points/game (UM scores 30.4/game)

– Rounding it off UND averages about 270 passing yards/game and rushes for 175 yards/game. Compare that to the UM defense that allows 260 passing yards/game and 105 rushing yards/game.

– On the other side the UND defense allows on average of 215 passing yards/game and 230 rushing yards/game. UM’s offense averages 200 passing yards/game and 240 rushing yards/game.

– UND has a +2 turnover margin, UM is -5.

– Scoring by quarter it looks like UND usually lets opposing teams score on them early with more ease, they tighten down in the 2nd and 3rd quarters but ease off and have given up more points in the 4th as well. Offensively they’re pretty balanced in the 1st/3rd/4th but seem to have scoring explosions in the 2nd qtr.

– UNDs redzone offense scores 93% of the time, UM’s redzone defense has allowed scores 100% of the time (gross).

– UND’s punt coverage team gives up an average of 21 yards per return. Not a lot of fair catches (just 5 for their punter, compare to 12 fair catches so far this year on Shaw’s punts).

– UND’s passing game average 8.4 yards per pass, so another shorter passing team like SUU.

Keys to a Grizzly victory:

– First and foremost, learn from the mistakes made against SUU. It’s been well documented on here the coaching errors that cost a better chance of winning the game. Not calling a timeout near the end of the first half to give the offense more clock time and of course the fake punt. There was also the two blocked fieldgoals as well. These four errors, two by coaches and two by errors on the field could’ve tipped the SUU game to a win for the Griz instead. Our coaching staff I would think has probably been even more tough on themselves than we’ve even seen on here. I presume they’ve been working and reviewing this to hopefully avoid these mistakes again.

– Our DBs have to have the game of their careers. Last week was probably the best I’ve seen Josh Dennard play (5 pass breakups!) and I think he’ll probably get the start again with Murray this week. When Hendrickson is in the corners have to play closer coverage than we saw against SUU, the short game is what he does. When it’s Hanson at QB, give him the buffer then and don’t get beat deep. Hopefully Hermanson is back, although Rominger I thought played well in his stead.

– In addition to our DBs needing career best days, we’ll need that from our outside linebackers as well. With a dual-threat QB both Tripp and JP will face quick decisions of having to cover a rush/spread attack or peel off and cover a slot WR or TE. The consistency in play from these two could determine the day.

– Bend but don’t break. UND will get their yards, the question is – will they get TDs or be forced to punt or try fieldgoals? EWU and Poly held UND out of the end zone for the most part and won their games against them. Others like PSU, Sac, and SDSU did not do that and UND won two of those three games.

– I’ll probably be crucified for saying this but let Peter return punts and see what he can do. Yep, 2 lost fumbles on punts this year is a bad thing, but once he’s got the ball secured is there anyone different you’d rather see running the ball on a punt return? He’s a shifty guy and could tip the field in the UM’s favor. It’s a risk/reward situation but with our backs against the wall I think he’s worth the gamble.

– POUND the rock. I have a sneaking suspicion that Dan Moore might be back. No “inside” info just a hunch. If not please please please use Counts and Kirsch as well. Griz have to win TOP against a deadly UND offense. That starts with running the ball well. I’d almost expect to see and EWU-like game plan from our offense.

– Pile it on. No lead is safe. UND is far too dangerous. If the Griz get comfy at all they’ll probably lose. We’ve seen far too many times this year the coaching staff take their foot off the gas and the team does not recover from it. A shift to a conservative style of game deflates this offense and then once our D gets worn down from being on the field all day – the wheels fall off and we wind up losing late.

– I’m not sure but I think UND’s surface is astro turf, isn’t it? If it is that should allow for even more speed/quickness. It’ll also take some time to adjust to as well. Could bode well for Jordan Canada.

– Keep UND’s defense honest. How about better/more play actions, reverse field plays, and throw a bit of trickery in there? SUU stacked the side of the field we showed and it worked. Reversing field on that scheme would’ve paid big dividends. I hope Rosenbach has a plan for that, and actually implements it as well.

Like most fans I’m pretty skeptical right now of a Grizzly win. I go back and forth on this, I know this team has the talent to win this game. What I don’t know and can’t predict are the coaching errors and inconsistent play calling. If the Griz coaching staff puts together a solid game and makes very few errors the Griz will win this game. If they don’t and we see more cute attempts at funky ST plays, a pedestrian offensive scheme, and a soft defense… they won’t win.

Considering that I believe this Grizzly team wants this win more than anything right now and the coaching staff has to be wanting to get back at it and correct all the crap that came out against SUU, I’m projecting a better game all around, I think the Griz win, but it’ll be a nail biter. 41-40, Griz win.

Go Griz!