I had a chance to re-watch the TV copy of Saturday's game a few times and am going to provide a few thoughts and observations from what I saw. 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.
MJ Stumpf is a violent, violent man. His hit to stop Lance Lenoir on the one yard line was probably the hit of the year. You never want to see an opposing play get knocked out of the game, but that was a game changing stop. His hit on the QB that drew a roughing-the-passer call was within the parameters of the rules, too. I honestly think he hit him so hard that it drew the flag.
He and PGT are really playing at a high level. It's not that Plank isn't holding up his end of the bargain, he is. With that said 41 and 47 are playing the type of football that you would expect from two seniors. I don't know if they're playing at a higher level than Beck and Littlejohn but they're certainly not playing worse.
Stumpf and Gee-Tucker aren't just doing their jobs, they're making impact plays game after game after game. Sacks and turnover are the name of the game in this pass-happy state of college football and MJ and PGT are creating those plays for the defense over and over again.
The Bison might have to take a look at the holder position. To be honest, two mistakes in one season for holder is too many and I'm not convinced it's just been two. It might be time to see if Jackson Koonce or James Hendricks can handle those duties at this time.
The touchdown to Illies was a beautiful play design. Illies has really made a significant jump this season and is an underutilized weapon for NDSU at this point. I'd like to see a few more plays in the gameplan with Illies as the primary read.
One of the most important developments in Illies' game has been blocking, so much so that the team will use him at fullback in a pinch. Illies came in as a player whose entrance into the game meant a pass play was coming if the opposing coordinator was paying attention. He's a two way player now.
God bless the Messner package. The success rate (and maybe I'm not paying enough attention to just how often he's actually on the field) when NDSU uses the fourth year junior on offense. I'm not sure the Bison will ever throw him the ball (Lord wouldn't that be something), but he's a very effective blocker and I think it gives the offense a little bit of a confusing lift when he comes in the game.
After a Frazier fumble changed the game against SDSU, it was nice to see the Bison backs take good care of the football. Ball security was clearly emphasized (as I'm sure it is every week), but the backs did a good job covering up, even when being attacked by trailing defenders.
Easton Stick needs to raise his level of play. Stick is a very good player, and I'm not sure there's been anyone that's pointed that out more often than I have. With that said the last two game have not been great for Stick. A YPA under 8 and a 1:2 TD to INT ratio is not commensurate with a player of his talent level.
I'm sure Easton would be the first to tell you that he has to play better. He just needs to take better care of the football. There isn't much he could do about the first interception. 35 was playing edge defense and looked like he was going to engage with the offensive front instead of dropping into coverage. When he dropped it became bad luck more than anything. The second interception was a bad judgement call.
He'll get it figured out. Sometimes it's hard to remember that he is just a sophomore.
Bruce Anderson's absence is noticeable all over, but it's specifically noticeable in the special teams coverage units. He's such a good athlete and has a speed/size combination that's really difficult for other special teams units to handle.
This was a good bounce-back game for the defensive line. The Bison very rarely blitzed (though that cat blitz from the short side of the field with Jalen Allison was sweet) and were able to make McGuire uncomfortable all day. Yes, NDSU had two team sacks there were several throws that were hurried, several throws that were made while being hit and several other passing plays that ended up being short rushing gains because they were just a few yards away from being sacks.
As this young DB group continues to improve it's going to be important that the front four play the way that they have been. The one player I'd like to see a little bit more out of after a torrid start to the season is Brad Ambrosious. Ambrosious didn't pop on this film and according to NDSU's official stats he has no sacks or QB hurries in NDSU's last five games.
Ambrosious continues to be impressive in run defense but the first few games really made it look like he was becoming a complete strong-side defensive end by developing that pass rush.
After struggling with it early on in his career, Robbie Grimsley is almost never out of position in the run game. Yes, he needs to convert a higher percentage of his chances by missing fewer tackles but he's still got 31 stops in the last four games. That's putting in work. He was particularly good on Saturday.
The Bison might have discovered something on accident with Jalen Allison due to the injury to Jaylaan Wimbush. Jake Weineke and Lance Lenoir are all conference and pretty much All American level athletes. Allison didn't "shut them down", certainly not. He did, though, limit Weineke's reception total to 6 and limit Lenoir's yardage output to 61 yards.
That's pretty good work for a sophomore rushed into #1-follow-the-#1-receiver duty. It will be interesting what duties they assign to Allison when Wimbush comes back. He's just going to continue improving.