Lumberjacks prepping for both UND QBsGRAND FORKS — Northern Arizona’s two Big Sky Conference wins have come against two of the better dual-threat quarterbacks in the league in Portland State’s Kieran McDonagh and Montana’s Trent McKinney.
By: Tom Miller, Forum Communications
GRAND FORKS — Northern Arizona’s two Big Sky Conference wins have come against two of the better dual-threat quarterbacks in the league in Portland State’s Kieran McDonagh and Montana’s Trent McKinney.
That’s why Lumberjacks coach Jerome Souers thinks his defense might have a unique task if asked to face University of North Dakota quarterback Braden Hanson, who split time last week with Marcus Hendrickson in UND’s lopsided loss at Eastern Washington.
“That left-hander (Hanson), holy smokes, he has an accurate arm,” Souers said. “His throws can reach anywhere on the field. If he hadn’t broken his leg, I wonder what kind of numbers he would have put up.”
UND coaches haven’t declared a starter for Saturday’s 3 p.m. homecoming matchup with Northern Arizona at the Alerus Center.
Souers said his defense has to make sure it identifies quickly which North Dakota quarterback is taking snaps. Hanson is a pure pocket passer, while Hendrickson makes plays with his feet.
“We need to ID first and then get into our best defense for that situation,” Souers said. “Those guys have two different styles. We’ve seen a lot of mobile quarterbacks in spread-option looks, but this is the first time we’ve probably seen a complete passer (Hanson).”
Hanson has proven to be accurate in his limited time at UND. The transfer from North Carolina broke a bone in his leg in the season opener against South Dakota Mines after going 13-for-14 for 188 yards and two touchdowns.
He filled in for Hendrickson against Eastern Washington last week and finished 16-for-22 for 141 yards. Hanson is now completing 80.6 percent of his passes in limited time.
UND and Northern Arizona haven’t played in 27 years and that causes a bit of concern for Souers, despite his team’s No. 16 ranking in Football Championship Subdivision.
“There are a lot of familiarity issues,” Souers said. “They’re a very balanced offensive attack. They’ve put up some huge numbers. Their style of play is different than anything we’ve seen. They’re a play or two here and there from being a really dominant team.”
After cruising to a 3-1 start behind one of the country’s best passing offenses, the UND offense has cooled the past two weeks against Cal Poly and Eastern Washington.
Souers says he isn’t sure if there are any lessons to be learned from those two losses in how to stop North Dakota.
“Our defense is different than Eastern and Poly,” he said. “So I wonder how our system matches up. I’ve watched North Dakota on film be very productive against the blitz and man coverages, as well as against zones. We just need to avoid the big plays.”