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UND FOOTBALL: The good and bad at No. 9 Washington

North Dakota Fighting Hawks linebacker Everett Williams (52) tackles Washington Huskies running back Sean McGrew (25) in the backfield during the fourth quarter at Husky Stadium. Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

The UND football team went to Seattle on Saturday and saw a mixed bag of results against No. 9 Washington at Husky Stadium.

The Fighting Hawks hung around midway through the third quarter, trailing 17-3, before the Huskies piled it on in the fourth quarter.

Let's take a look at the good and bad from the Week 2 45-3 loss.

The good

John Santiago: Santiago continued to find success against FBS foes, rushing for 139 yards. He's now three-for-four in rushing for more than 100 yards against FBS opponents during his career.

Santiago showed off his elite athleticism and Washington coach Chris Petersen started his postgame press conference by tipping his hat to "ol' 22."

Santiago showcased why it's so important UND finds more creative ways to get him touches. He was needed big time, too, because backup Brady Oliveira only had three carries. Bubba Schweigert said in the postgame Oliveira wasn't healthy.

Here's his impressive 69-yard run. It has to be one of the few times in his career he's been caught from behind, which was a reminder of the type of athlete Washington has on defense.

Offensive line: This was a maligned group, and they know it if you watched Midco Sports Network's Day by Day coverage.

They held their own against Washington, helping UND rush for 4.9 yards per carry. 

Nathan Nguon, perhaps the team's best run blocker, will return to health in the next week or two and fortunately for UND it's going to be a tough decision on how to handle that. 

Run defense: The storyline out of Washington from this game was the disappointment in the run game, but the Fighting Hawks had something to do with that. 

Even when Noah Larson got banged up during the game at inside linebacker, I thought UND's interior help -- Tyron Vrede, Cam Hunt and Ev Williams -- were solid.

Steve Greer also started at nose guard with Tank Harris out and was disruptive. I thought it was the best game of his career.

The bad

Vertical passing game: The telling stat: UND's top pass catcher was Travis Toivonen with five grabs. Those five catches, however, only went for 14 yards.

UND couldn't stretch the field, and I think it was a combination of two things.

One, UND needs to develop a slot-type option to complement the big-body types of Toivonen, Noah Wanzek and Garett Maag. 

The other element at play was that UND was probably spooked by Nate Ketteringham's first big dropback when he was flushed and fumbled to set up a short field. After that, it seemed the play calling made sure the ball was out early and Ketteringham himself appeared a little itchy to unload quickly.

The specialists: This had to be the worst-case scenario coming into the year with freshmen at kicker, punter and long snapper.

Kicker Brady Leach and punter Cade Peterson don't seem to be in a great place mentally.

It comes off both their feet better than they're showing in games right now. That's either encouraging because they could snap the funk or troubling that they're playing a little scared right now. 

UND has played in two games to start the year with 40-point betting lines. When the games tighten, this could amplify.

Fourth-down play-calling: This UND coaching staff is going to have a defense-first mindset at times, but there feels like some uncertainty on how to approach fourth and short around midfield.

UND punted once, and it didnt' help much. UND went for it once, getting stuffed on a James Johannesson carry up the middle. 

In certain situations, especially if the punting game remains a major question mark, I'd prefer UND to be a bit more aggressive on fourth down.

Tom Miller

Miller has been with the Grand Forks Herald sports department since 2004. He's also a Grand Forks native and UND graduate. 

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