BOISE STATE VS. NORTH DAKOTA
Location: Boise, Idaho (Albertsons Stadium)
Date/Time: Saturday, September 16th at 10:00 a.m. (Mountain Time)
Television: FS1 (Fox Sports 1)
Streaming: Fox Sports App
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KBOI 93.1 FM (Bronco Radio Network)
Head-to-Head: This will be the first-ever meeting between the Broncos and the Fighting Hawks. In fact, this is the first time that Boise State has ever faced a football team from the state of North Dakota.
Tale of the Tape
- These teams are coming in off of very different offensive performances, albeit, against very different competition. Boise State was stuck in the mud most of the game as they weren’t able to eclipse the 20-point mark against UCF. Meanwhile, North Dakota has been on a roll to begin the season, scoring 55 points against Drake and 37 against Northern Arizona (I would put more credence into the 37 vs. NAU).
- Bronco QB Taylen Green had a suboptimal performance against the Knights, but the biggest question coming out of last week’s home opener was his health status. Green exited the game in the second half due to what head coach Andy Avalos described as “cramps”. However, TG10 had been gingerly running with what appeared to be a less than 100% ankle.
Andy Avalos knows everything going on with his starting QB, and he expects Green to be healthy and ready to go for the Fighting Hawks.
I’ll take his word for it.
As for North Dakota, they have senior signal-caller Tommy Schuster at the helm of the offense. In his first two games of the season, Schuster has a 77% completion rate, thrown for 521 yards and 4 TDs, all while not throwing a single interception in 2023. I understand that the level of competition has to be accounted for, but those are some impressive numbers regardless of who you are playing.
- The running game continues to be the heart beat of Bush Hamdan’s offense, even if it’s Ashton Jeanty doing anything and everything. The sophomore running back had another stellar outing last week, totaling 213 all-purpose yards and leading the whole team in receiving yards. George Holani did not play last week and as of Friday morning, there has been no further update on his status. Freshman Jambres Dubar was able to make his Bronco debut and did relatively well. If Holani is out again this week, expect “Breezy” Dubar to get even more touches.
The Fighting Hawks are no slouch in the trenches as they are top-15 in the FCS in team rushing yards per game at 217.5 yds. Gaven Ziebarth is the primary back with 19 carries and 181 yards under his belt. Meanwhile, Isaiah Smith fills in as RB2. Both Ziebarth and Smith are not small guys, both standing at 6-0 and at least 200 lbs.
- Boise State’s receivers looked a little bit better a week ago, but the numbers are still not there. For one, Jeanty led the receiving stats by at least 29 yards. Second, only one receiver was able to eclipse 30 receiving yards (Stefan Cobbs with 68 yards). Eric McAlister and Chase Penry only had two catches while tight end Riley Smith collected only once reception for eight yards.
I know the fanbase can be misguided and not informed, but I think we all agree that we want to see one player on the field.
I do not care if the only tape we have of him is when he was battling our secondary during spring ball (which doesn’t say as much now). He is a physical freak that has the ability to energize the offense through the air.
Remind you of anyone...perhaps a certain Taylen Green?
North Dakota only has one guy on the outside that has separated himself from the pack in Bo Belquist. The 6-1 North Dakotan already has over 200 yards on the season and is averaging over 15 yards per reception.
The next closest receiver?
Wesley Eliodor with 92 yards.
- Both offensive lines have performed well in the beginning portion of this season. Boise State is protecting Green and creating holes for the running backs to create havoc in. As for North Dakota, they have only allowed one sack on their starting QB this season and their running game has found a groove early on.
- The defensive line for Boise State has been essentially an afterthought thus far.
As a whole, the position group as generated zero sacks and zero QB hurries. The only pressure getting into the backfield is from the linebackers (DJ Schramm, Andrew Simpson and Marco Notarainni). Ahmed Hassenein, Demitri Washington, Herbert Gums. Someone needs to be able to crash the pocket and make a play.
The linebacker corps is showing out this year thanks to the emergence of Marco Notarainni. We knew that Schramm was going to be the stalwart at the position once again and that Andrew Simpson proved he deserved to be on the field.
Lots of people, including myself, thought that Dishawn Misa or Jake Ripp may finagle their way into the rotation.
Similar to Schramm, Notarainni has bided his time and is now taking full advantage of the opportunity in front of him.
And then there’s the secondary.
Despite what may have looked like an improved performance against UCF, the defense still got burned over the top and over the middle. If the Knights’ receivers didn’t have butter fingers Saturday, the stats would have more closely mirrored the Washington debacle. Yes, the two turnovers “created” by the secondary is great and should provide some signs of life going forward!
But in the same vain that people argue all wins are not created equal, not all turnovers are directly caused by the defense. I don’t mean to discredit Alexander Teubner and Jaylen Clark.
They were in the right place at the right time.
Alas, luck can only get you so far.
- Judging North Dakota’s defense based on their first two games is a difficult task. If we look strictly at the numbers, the Fighting Hawks have only allowed an average of 14.5 points per game.
Only allowing one rushing touchdown in two games?
However, both teams that North Dakota beat are currently a combined 0-4 and have been outscored 56 - 157.
Individually, two Hawk linebackers stand out from the rest of the defense, Wyatt Pedigo and Josh Navratil. Both have combined for two sacks, 5.5 tackles-for-loss, and three QB hurries.
The secondary hasn’t put up any major stats to this point and has only forced one interception to date.
- We don’t have much data on North Dakota kicker Brady Stevens, but he has attempted one field goal this season.
He missed it from 34 yards out.
The punter, Luke Silvernale, hasn’t done a ton, either. The redshirt freshman has attempted three punts, but has only averaged 30 yards.
- For Boise State, Jonah Dalmas was the player of the game last week and kept the Broncos in the fight. The Rocky Mountain alum hit a career-long 56 yard field goal that tied the school record. On the season, Dalmas is 3/3 and his only blemish is a missed PAT week one against Washington (it was a doink off the upright, anyway).
Aussie punter James Ferguson-Reynolds has quickly become one of the best and most reliable players on the Bronco roster. When Boise State has needed him (a little too often if you ask me), he has delivered. The man from down under is averaging 51 yards a punt, has pinned five inside the 20, and has a long of 62.
- For Boise State, no changes came in the updated depth chart for this week. George Holani, Mason Randolph and Cortez Hogans were the three scratches a week ago that forced others to step up. You would think with the opponent at hand that the staff may give them an extra week of recovery before a two-week slog against San Diego State and Memphis.
- From what information I have been able to gather, there are no surprises on the North Dakota side and they are near 100% in terms of health.
Why North Dakota Will Win
The passing attack of the Fighting Hawks is able to...overpower Boise State’s secondary. I keep having to remind myself that the team from Grand Forks, North Dakota, is no joke as they are ranked 13th in the FCS Coaches Poll. For context, Big Sky heavyweights Idaho and Montana are slotted 10th and 11th, respectively. If the Fighting Hawks were to pull the upset, that also means the defensive line is a definite weakness in 2023.
On offense, I have to think that Taylen Green is playing, but he is hobbled and can’t use his legs to keep the North Dakota defense honest. The coaching staff has raved about Green’s improved passing within the pocket, but I am not at a point where I want to rely on that to win games (yet).
Big picture...this would be the worst loss in Boise State history and heads would be called for.
But let’s only cross that bridge if we have to.
Why Boise State Will Win
Talent wins out.
Even if programs are at a brief point of disarray, talent can cover those weaknesses quickly.
Ashton Jeanty is a wrecking ball and I suspect that the North Dakota defense hasn’t seen anything like him. The same goes for Taylen Green when he is at a 100%. A “C” performance gets Boise State over the finish line and into the win column.
Defensively, the defensive line gets some push and is able to force Schuster to get the ball out early. With that, the secondary is able to lock up the UND receivers and force a couple of turnovers that widen the gap.
3 Players to Watch
Since North Dakota isn’t a team that most casual fans are watching every Saturday, let’s focus on three Hawks that could help turn this game in favor of North Dakota.
Wesley Eliodor (Wide Receiver - North Dakota)
- Eliodor is in his first year with UND, but he has played plenty of college football during his time at South Dakota. Withe the Coyotes, he was a tremendous special teams player and a dynamic playmaker.
Kadon Kauppinen (Defensive Back - North Dakota)
- Out of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, the 6-2 fifth year senior is second on the team in total tackles with ten. He is also responsible for two pass breakups and two QB hurries.
Ted Mullin (Linebacker - North Dakota)
- The native of Littleton, Colorado, is the only Hawk to record an interception this season, but he is also fourth on the team in total tackles. Not to mention, he has the aura of Boise State’s DJ Schramm (if he were a redhead, that is).
Spread: Due to this game being an FBS-FCS matchup, there is no spread provided.
Total: See above.
Straight Up Money Line: See above.
Boise State is going to win Saturday afternoon.
Despite all the bad mojo that has invaded the fanbase via an 0-2 start, the Broncos can beat North Dakota while at their lowest point.
The talent of the Broncos is too much to overcome for the Fighting Hawks.
Doomsday scenarios happen very rarely. Especially, in Boise, Idaho.
Last year, UTEP happened. This year, North Dakota cannot happen.