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.
What a great return by Darrius Shepherd. A lot of big returns are largely set up with a great design by the special teams coach or a few excellent blocks, this one was a lot of Darrius Shepherd.
Shep made a wave of four players miss that had gotten beyond their blockers. Once those players were passed him, it became 11 on 6 plus a punter, not a great situation for Indiana State. The bobble up into the air was a nice touch. I felt like it added some style points.
I appreciate what Polasek did at 8:39 1Q. The Bison were already up 7 against a team that posed very little threat. The offense hadn't touched the ball and had fantastic field position. Run the ball, right? No.
Polasek dialed up a play action deep shot for his young quarterback and Stick just missed the throw. Even when Urzendowski is on the 10 yard line he still has a step on the defender. The cornerback's safety help had already committed to the run and was out of the play. A better throw is a touchdown, a touchdown that would have potentially done wonders for the confidence of the passing game.
I don't know what Indiana State was doing against the QB run scheme. Last year against Indiana State was Easton Stick's first game as a starter for North Dakota State. Stick accumulated 17 rushing attempts for 124 yards and two touchdowns rushing.
How was ISU not better prepared to deal with designed QB runs for Stick? Klieman mentioned in the post game press conference that they really could have gone QB run for huge chunks of yards whenever they wanted, but didn't want to expose the young QB to injury. The first touchdown was unforgiveable from an alignment standpoint for the ISU defense. If you freeze the tape at 6:47 1Q you can already tell it's a touchdown. Plankers and Kuhnert both pull left and there really isn't even anyone there for Plankers to block.
I appreciate a lot of the things Mike Sanford said in the post game press conference, and I agree with his view of the strength of the MVFC, but his team played dirty and that has to start and end with the head coach. The hit on Darrius Shepherd after he called fair catch was garbage. The exchange Bryce Messner had in the end zone wasn't really his fault, either. Ty Brooks was benched late in the game for "retaliating to some things that shouldn't have been going on out there" according to coach Klieman. Defensive end Brad Ambrosious had some words after the game about the "sportsmanship" being displayed by Indiana State.
I don't remember a better special teams game for the Bison this season. The kickoff coverage team was very impressive, specifically Jaxon Brown. Brown is a kid who is a prime candidate for playing time after Tre Dempsey graduates. He's a good athlete who plays the game with a noticeable swagger.
Gee-Tucker and Stumpf continued their reign of terror. Unless something really awful happens in these last few weeks, I really do believe that this is the finest tandem of outside linebackers the Bison have ever had. Better than Maresh and Humber, better than Beck and Littlejohn.
PGT basically ended the game in the first quarter with his monster hit on a crossing route followed by a sack deep in opposing territory. The Bison started the next drive on their own 47 yard line, Stick scored on QB counter right, and ISUb was done.
I want to specifically talk about Colin Conner on that play. Conner has to sell the read option left, which he does, and then at 6'5" and 305 pounds runs all the way down to the end zone and delivers the touchdown block. There was a point in that play where Conner honest to God was 20 yards away from the ball carrier. That kind of hustle does not go unnoticed with the coaching staff, I promise you.
Dallas Freeman you gotta make that catch.
I love all the different ways Entz is using Greg Menard. Menard had another sack and an additional QB hurry on Saturday. He probably could have been given partial credit for one or tow other sacks, but I don't score the statistics.
I've mentioned previously that Menard is an NFL talent, but at 6'2" 240, not a player that's going to be able to defensive end. Whether the staff is actually recognizing that and putting him in different positions or doing it for nothing but the betterment of the defense, it's working.
2Q, 6:50, Menard lines up in a tandem with MJ Stumpf as the ILBs in a 3-2 front (PGT was out there too, but he's pretty much playing nickel corner where he's standing). Menard and Stumpf run a twist, with Stumpf going first. It freaks out the interior offensive line and they actually end up passing off 290 pound Aaron Steidl of all people. The result of the play was a sack fumble, recovered by....... Greg Menard.
Not much you can do against Sticks' throw at 10:50 2Q. It's throws like that that make me remember that the kid is going to be really, really good.
The young defensive tackles played well. You didn't see their names called a lot, and they were replaced in a lot of passing situations, but this is not a defense designed for the glory of the defensive tackles. I thought Blake Wiliams was particularly effective.
The defensive backs are almost unrecognizable in pass covereage if you compare it with early season film. Such noticeable improvement.
There's not really much else to say. The competitive part of the game lasted for less than a half. Though the Bison coaching staff didn't admit it during the week, it appears they knew this was coming, and said as much in the post game press conference.
The plan was to dominate the game and get the kids who have played (and gotten beaten up) all season out of there and get the younger players who need more reps to develop depth.
Because NDSU played such a tough non conference schedule and avoided the "cupcake" game like they had last season with Weber State and North Dakota coming to the Fargodome, they didn't have a lot of reps available for second and third string guys.
Those players are important in the later parts of the season. Second and third string players become starters when guys go down, and this has been a specifically difficult season for the Bison and losing players for health reasons.
One last thing, though: good for James Fisher.