UND FOOTBALL: Montana visits UND for third straight year
Montana football coach Mick Delaney noted Wednesday that his Griz and UND have similar offenses. Of course, Montana -- the No. 7 team in FCS -- has a more feared offense. Still, the two teams have the same mindset. The focus will be in the trench...
Montana football coach Mick Delaney noted Wednesday that his Griz and UND have similar offenses.
Of course, Montana - the No. 7 team in FCS - has a more feared offense. Still, the two teams have the same mindset.
The focus will be in the trenches when the two Big Sky Conference foes meet at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Alerus Center.
“Their offense is struggling, but it’s capable of a good day,” Delaney said. “If they’re able to run the ball, they can be a balanced team and will throw it better. They’ll try to establish the run … as we will.”
UND’s run game will face a stiff test in the Montana defense, which is ranked No. 1 in the Big Sky in scoring defense (17.2 points per game).
“We have a lot of respect for their defense,” UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. “You’ve got to earn everything you get. You’ve got to control the ball to help out our defense. That presents a big challenge to try to move the chains and gain field position.”
Both UND and Montana have been stout defensively against the run. UND leads the Big Sky, giving up 142 rushing yards per game. Montana is giving up 167.4 yards per game on the ground. However, Montana has played a tough schedule including games against North Dakota State and Wyoming.
The edge on offense
Montana’s balanced offense, led by senior quarterback Jordan Johnson, will try to establish the run behind experienced backs Travon Van and Jordan Canada. Montana is averaging 339.2 yards of total offense per game, which is 10th in the Big Sky.
UND’s offense, meanwhile, is last in the 13-team Big Sky by more than 80 yards per game. UND is averaging 223.2 yards of total offense.
Despite Montana’s ability to stop the run, UND won’t change its identity offensively. North Dakota will still be a run-first offense.
“We want to be a physical football team,” Schweigert said. “That’s how we’re attempting to build our football team. Every week we want to go in and run and that’s who we are. We know that’s going to be a good challenge against the Griz.”
Taking note of defense
UND’s improved defense was on display last week with a 29-18 loss to No. 13 Montana State, a high-powered offense that was held to 150 yards fewer than it averages.
Delaney said he wasn’t surprised by the score in Bozeman.
“Not really,” he said. “We watched them on tape and their offense has struggled but their defense has played really well. I think their team is getting better week by week.”
With UND’s deliberate offense, Delaney said it’ll be important to get off to a good start. The Griz certainly did last week when they jumped Northern Colorado for 28 points in the first quarter.
“If we get a good start, then that’s obviously going to neutralize the time of possession that they like to take advantage of,” Delaney said. “It’ll depend on who can run the ball and move the ball and keep opposing offenses off the field. It’s very important to come ready to be able to play from the opening kickoff.”
Montana would also like to stop the run in order to unleash its talented pass rush, which leads the league with 18 sacks. Montana defensive end Zach Wagenmann, an All-American, has 27 career sacks and 38 career tackles for loss. He has seven sacks in five games this year.
“We have as good of a front four as anyone,” Delaney said. “If we stop the run, that’s certainly magnified.”