UND ground game faces stingy San Diego State defensive frontGRAND FORKS — One of the surprising outcomes from the University of North Dakota’s 45-37 win over Portland State last Saturday was the ineffectiveness of the team’s run game.
By: Tom Miller, Forum Communications
GRAND FORKS — One of the surprising outcomes from the University of North Dakota’s 45-37 win over Portland State last Saturday was the ineffectiveness of the team’s run game.
North Dakota quarterback Marcus Hendrickson threw six touchdown passes and amassed 294 yards through the air, but the ground game was uncharacteristically quiet.
UND rushed for 107 yards on 35 carries for an average of 3.1 yards per attempt. That number is even more misleading as the team’s leading rusher was Hendrickson, who scrambled eight times for 50 yards.
UND coach Chris Mussman said that’s a concern as his team prepares for Saturday night’s 7 p.m. game against FBS member San Diego State.
“But I’m not sure how healthy we’re going to get running the ball with how good (the Aztecs) are up front stopping the run,” Mussman said. “That’ll be a challenge this week.”
Mussman said part of the problem against Portland State was schematics.
“We didn’t make adjustments up front to get guys going to the right spots,” said Mussman, a former Iowa State offensive lineman who also coaches the UND hogs. “Without getting too technical, we were staying thick on double teams instead of getting to the next level. They were moving around on us more than I anticipated them doing.”
Part of Portland State’s plan, too, likely centered on forcing Hendrickson to beat them through the air — loading the box with defenders. Hendrickson, subbing for injured starter Braden Hanson, was unproven and making his first career start as a fifth-year senior.
Last year, UND ran for 147.9 yards per game. The running game’s highlight came in a 27-22 loss at FBS program Fresno State, where UND rushed for 216 yards on 39 attempts for 5.5 yards per carry.
That was Jake Miller’s breakout game as the Bismarck native ran for 150 yards and three touchdowns. Mitch Sutton added 70 yards on the ground and Jer Garman added 30.
Those impressive numbers against an FBS opponent also came with an offense bordering on one-dimensional. A struggling passing game against Fresno produced only 107 yards.
With a much-improved passing attack, Mussman hopes defensive backs will be forced to honor UND vertically to free up some room in the trenches.
The Aztecs, however, run a 3-5-3 defensive scheme that prides itself on stuffing the run.
“They do a pretty good job of it,” Mussman said. “But whatever works. We’ve been able to put some points on the board lately.”