I will be re-watching the TV copy of Saturday games this season and am going to provide a few thoughts and observations from what I see. Film study off of TV copy is much more difficult than one might find from any of my NFL work. The NFL provides a wide shot of east-west play in which all 22 players can be seen, and a north/south view focusing on the offensive and defensive fronts. No such luck here.
That game was very poorly officiated. I'm not completely sure how these agreements come to be of which officiating crews take on which non conference match ups but for the second consecutive week the officials lost control of the game. This is not a "these officials had a lot of bad calls against NDSU" complaint. This is a "why did this game with three plays of overtime take four hours and 14 minutes to complete? There was a drive in which the officials missed badly on a spot, called an impossible roughing the passer on Greg Menard and then missed a (less egregious) offensive pass interference call on Cooper Kupp. More than that though, they lacked the confidence (competence?) to make calls without the assistance of replay. These people have a hard job, but this was not a job well done.
NDSU has to address what they do against spread attacks. I do understand the thinking behind abandoning last season's 4-2-5 nickel for a 3-3-5 look. NDSU has a fantastic trio of senior linebackers. Nick DeLuca, MJ Stumpf and Pierre Gee-Tucker are very good. Why wouldn't you want them on the field at all times? The problem is this: rushing three and dropping 8 is asking for trouble. It always has been.
There were multiple occasions in which PGT was asked to operate in man coverage longer and deeper down the field than should have been allowed. That's not a knock on Gee-Tucker as a player. He should never be the deepest player on the field on a pass play. The Bison can continue to run a 3-3-5, and be successful with it, but they still need to rush four or five players on the majority of snaps.
It actually went a lot better for the Bison defense when Cooper Kupp was in. Kupp is a great player. Just look at his statistics before he left the game. It seemed, though, that NDSU lost their edge when Kupp left the game. Eastern Washington had a clear plan for Kupp. They used him inside, feeling as though his matchup with NDSU's interior pass defenders were not quite on the level of Jalen Allison and Jaylaan Wimbush. Robbie Grimsley then followed Kupp around the formation and the rest of the Bison defense adjusted from there.
When Kupp exited the game with an injury, the Bison stopped keying off of the Grimsley-Kupp matchup and that's when things really took a turn. Also, Gubrud is a good player.
The Grimsley interception was just as big of a play as the DeLuca interception. It just happened earlier in the game. If Eastern Washington had come down and scored after recovering the onside kick, the entire complexion of that game might have changed. The blocking by the defense to make that a long, successful return and flip the field cannot be understated.
RJ Urzendowski. Dayum.
The receiving tight ends are the reason that the Bison won't need to burn Sean Engel's redshirt. Engel is a special and unique talent to the Bison program. Coach Klieman has hinted on a number of occasions that Sean is and was a potential candidate to play during the 2016 season. Engel suffered a hamstring injury and missed a lot of fall camp, which set him back.
What also set his true freshman campaign back has to be the play of the receiving tight ends Nate Jenson and Jeff Illies. Illies and Jenson made big plays on Saturday, and more often than not those big plays came with those players flexed into the receiver position as opposed to playing a traditional tight end on the end of the offensive line. NDSU sometimes struggles with size at the wide receiver position, but that doesn't matter if they have tight ends that can play out wide. I was impressed.
Lance Dunn has made a huge year one to year two jump. He looks like a completely different player. As much as I like Bruce Anderson as a player and an athlete (and think he doesn't get enough snaps), Dunn made it pretty clear why he has been given an increased percentage of the workload.
The "Original" Zack Johnson is a really, really good offensive lineman. Watch his block on Lance Dunn's game winning touchdown run. That's how you play left guard.
Easton Stick really thinks Easton Stick has a hell of an arm. This kid plays with so much confidence. He worries Bison fans occasionally with some decision making and a few throws through tight windows that look like they have a chance of being intercepted, but he's a special player. His confidence should continue to rise. 257 yards passing and 60 yards rushing with three total touchdowns. Stick is going to be a star.
Jackson Koonce has to play better, or the Bison need to do some serious thinking. For the second straight game the Bison were outclassed at the punter position (though Eastern didn't punt much). Bison football places an emphasis on field position, and at this point Koonce is not holding up his end of that bargain.