UND will keep San Diego State coach's unusual style in mind SaturdayGRAND FORKS — Against Portland State last Saturday, the University of North Dakota saw the Vikings attempt a flea-flicker, a double pass and the unique swinging-gate formation all in the first half.
By: Tom Miller, Forum Communications
GRAND FORKS — Against Portland State last Saturday, the University of North Dakota saw the Vikings attempt a flea-flicker, a double pass and the unique swinging-gate formation all in the first half.
With San Diego State of the Mountain West Conference and coach Rocky Long ahead this weekend, North Dakota is in store for even more unconventional thinking.
UND will take on the Aztecs at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego at 6 p.m. Saturday. In the NFL stadium of the San Diego Chargers, fans of the Green and White can expect a few eyebrow-raising decisions by Long.
The veteran head coach made waves this summer when he discussed the notion of essentially eliminating the team’s punting game inside the 50, electing to always go for it on fourth down.
Then, in the team’s season-opening 21-12 loss to the University of Washington of the PAC-12, Long elected to go for the two-point conversion on each of his team’s touchdowns in lieu of the conventional extra-point attempt.
Despite defending his decision to go for two points after the loss to the Huskies, Long reverted to the extra-point kick in his team’s 42-7 win over Army in Week 2.
UND coach Chris Mussman said UND needs to plan for Long’s quirkiness.
“With their mentality to go for two and quick kicks and all that, we have to prepare for that,” Mussman said. “Simulating what they do is going to be the hardest part in practice this week. We want to be able to give our team those looks.”
Although Long hesitates to use his special teams routinely, he may be even more apt to neglect his kicker and punter against UND.
UND’s special teams registered three blocks against Portland State and now lead the country in that category. Last year, North Dakota had 11 blocks.
“Obviously they won last week against Portland State in a shootout because of those kick blocks,” Long said. “They spend a lot of time to scheme for that. We have to spend an equal amount of time on protection. Our emphasis this week is to protect our kicker and punter.”
Long is also aware of UND’s offensive statistics. North Dakota is averaging 527 yards of total offense and 55.5 points through the first two weeks of the season.
“We had a pretty good game last week, but we’re nervous about the game coming up,” Long said. “You look at the upsets across the country week after week and then look at North Dakota with an average of 520 yards of total offense … you watch them on film, realize how good they are and get nervous.”
The Aztecs may be eccentric when it comes to their decision-making on special teams, but SDSU is a traditional power running team.
“They’ll show you lots of big personnel,” Mussman said. “They want to run the ball down your throat.”
Walter Kazee and Adam Muema pace the ground attack and split carries fairly evenly. The Aztecs are averaging 213.5 yards per game on the ground.
“We like to run the ball and our offensive line does a nice job blocking for the run,” Long said. “Both kids are pretty good backs. They’ve been sharing the load and been very productive.”