UND FOOTBALL: Project for offensive rebuild a slow task
While UND's new coaching staff has made a quick overhaul on the team's defense, the project for the offensive rebuild is a bit slower of a task. With North Dakota entering Saturday's 1:30 p.m. matchup with Portland State as one of the top defense...
While UND’s new coaching staff has made a quick overhaul on the team’s defense, the project for the offensive rebuild is a bit slower of a task.
With North Dakota entering Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. matchup with Portland State as one of the top defenses in the Big Sky Conference, the offense is under the gun to pull its weight.
“From Week 1 to now, we’re seeing progress in each position group,” UND offensive coordinator Paul Rudolph said.
Rudolph hasn’t had the easiest reclamation project. The team lost most of its explosive offensive skill in the offseason, losing senior Greg Hardin, as well as sophomores Jameer Jackson and Kenny Golladay.
The team plays two true freshmen (Dev Ferguson and Brandon Walker) regularly at wide receiver. The top two running backs (Cedric Simmons and Adam Shaugabay) have been hurt for weeks.
Rudolph’s offense has featured linebacker-turned-running back Kyle Norberg the past few weeks. Norberg has put together back-to-back rushing totals of more than 70 yards, although his style is limiting.
“We can’t do certain facets of the game that aren’t his style,” Rudolph said. “But we take advantage of his strengths.”
UND, though, flashed signs of offensive success last week against Montana. The team finished with 241 yards of total offense, including successful stints in hurry-up situations.
“We’ve made some progress there,” Rudolph said. “That starts with the wide receivers. Those guys aren’t freshmen anymore. They’re feeling a little better about things.”
Ferguson, especially, has found a niche as the team’s deep threat. He has 10 catches for 243 yards and a touchdown.
With the solid play from UND’s defense, the offense isn’t asked to be high scoring. The goal has been to be mistake free. That made the team’s struggles with penalties and bad snaps against Montana tough to swallow.
“We’ve yet to put one together,” Rudolph said.
UND’s offense has just five touchdowns on the year, while the defense has scored three times. The defense has scored a touchdown in three-straight games entering the weekend.
UND is averaging 12.0 points per game, with 90.4 yards per game on the ground and a 143.3 average through the air.
UND’s offensive line, which entered the year as a major question mark, has been solid. The team even dealt with the one-game absence of left guard Brandon Anderson, who missed the Montana game with an illness.
Backup left guard Brandon Miller got his first start of his career and Rudolph was happy with Miller’s performance.
“The offensive line is more comfortable with what kind of team we want to be,” Rudolph said. “The offensive line is starting to understand where they fit into protections.”