NORTH DAKOTA AT WYOMING
2 p.m., Sept. 5
North Dakota Sioux
Head Coach: Bubba Schweigert
2014 W-L: 5-7
Defense: Multiple 3-4
Players to watch:
QB Keaton Studsrud, LB Brian Labat, LB Will Ratelle, RB Kyle Norberg
When the University of North Dakota football team comes to Laramie this Saturday afternoon to kick off the 2015 season, it will likely be a throwback game. Each team likes to churn out rushing yardage and to run clock. According to Wyoming senior defensive end Eddie Yarbrough, this has been a blessing: "A lot of teams in the Mountain West are spread (offenses), but we (the Wyoming offense) are not one of them," Yarbrough explains, "We're a traditional pro style offense and that 's what UND is, so from day 1 at camp we've been going against ... heavy personnel, fullback, under center. We've been doing that all of camp."
And that's a good thing. They say familiarity breeds success and a team like Wyoming, with the second fewest seniors on its roster in the FBS, can use all the help it can muster, especially since the UND offensive line is a strength. Look for hard nosed play. Savvy and tenacity will abound. Returning Sioux starters Colton Boas, C; Sean Meehan, RT and Brandon Anderson will lead the way.
Prior to the release of the UND depth chart, Bohl had this to say about the UND squad : "University of North Dakota is a big strong physical team." and adds "I don't know who their quarterback is gonna be right now- I know that they're in a little bit of a musical chairs."
UND head coach Bubba Schweigert has given control of the offense to sophomore quarter back Keaton Studsrud, who is certainly an x factor. Studsrud started the final four games in 2014 as a freshman, going 26 of 75 for 276 yards Keaton has taken all of the first team offensive reps during the spring and fall drills.
Whereas Wyoming has a what appears to be a boon at running back (Shaun Wick, Kellen Overstreet and Brian Hill) UND brings back just one running back that touched the ball in 2014. Kyle Norberg carried the ball 87 times for 255 rushing yards. Perhaps there will be a youthful surprise to rise from the 26 new players that made the UND traveling squad.
The Sioux Defense created 28 turnovers last season and head coach Craig Bohl is well aware of the perils of a swarming 3-4 defense: "That style has at times been really difficult for us, at other times we've been successful with it."
There's no doubt that the UND defense saw success in 2014. Led by senior LB Will Ratelle (100+ tackles) and sophomore LB Brian Labat (12 tackles for loss) the Sioux were one of only 14 teams in FCS with more than 100 stops behind the line of scrimmage.
The question is whether the UND defensive line can withstand a constant barrage of Wyoming Cowboy off tackle strikes. Two seniors, DE Alec Carrothers and NG Kyle Woodsmall are the war daddies of a defensive line that is littered with youth that includes All-Big Sky honorable mention Brandon Drank.
Like Wyoming's, UND's 2 deep roster is peppered with youth and nowhere is this youth more apparent than in its depth in the defensive backfield where sophomores Chris Carter and Deion Harris are competing to replace All-Big Sky corner back Alex Tillman. Sophomore Cole Reyes and senior Chris Brown return to their starting roles at free safety and corner back respectively.
According to Wyoming starting QB Cam Coffman, the North Dakota defense presents a schematic challenge. "UND is everywhere they can bring anything, so it keeps us on our toes."
Craig Bohl was not so vague, in fact he was pretty poetic:
"They're an aggressive defense. They know what they're doing and are coached well. Bohl said, "They get in a 3-4 and they do a lot of twisting and different movements that pose problems for offenses. As a result they are an aggressive stingy, defense and they play with a great deal of pride and passion. It's going to be a challenge for us."
As both squads are in transitional periods, where each is looking for youth to contribute, and where each coaching staff is trying to ingrain toughness into beleaguered programs, this game will begin as a tale of two similarly positioned programs, but may likely end in with Wyoming asserting its grind it out clock winding offense upon the North Dakota defense. Wyoming should be able to wear them down. Look for heavy time of possession by the Cowboys and expect to see quite a bit of punting by the Sioux. Conditioning and improved athleticism will be apparent, but will the Cowboys play up to their own success-in-the-Mountain-West expectations or down to a what might well be hard nosed, but over matched opponent?
Wyoming by 3 Touchdowns.