Tom Miller / Forum Communications Co. , Published September 26 2012
Cal Poly coach prepares for shootout with UNDGRAND FORKS – Cal Poly football coach Tim Walsh isn’t a stranger to the University of North Dakota, as the two current Big Sky Conference programs have faced off four consecutive years during their tenures in the Great West Conference.
But Walsh said this version of North Dakota is different.
“I’ve always said they’re one of the better coached teams in all phases of the game,” Walsh said. “But right now, they’re extremely balanced and very explosive, which they haven’t been in the past. They’ll give any team problems with how explosive they are.”
Although UND and No. 23 Cal Poly is a familiar matchup, the 6 p.m. game Saturday at the Alerus Center will have some unique looks.
Through four games, 3-1 UND has produced 34 plays of 20 or more yards. In 11 games last season, UND had 58 plays of 20 or more yards with a much easier schedule.
“I think right now they’re thinking they’re a team to beat in this conference,” Walsh said. “They have lots of guys who’ve played lots of games in a row for them. That makes it tough in the Alerus.
“It should be rocking Saturday night. We’ll see which one of us remains undefeated in the Big Sky.”
Walsh might not recognize UND’s pass offense, which has transformed from a struggling group to the Football Championship Subdivision’s No. 1 pass efficiency offense.
A year ago, UND starter Joey Bradley was 4-for-17 for 65 yards with two interceptions against Cal Poly. He was replaced in the second half – and for the rest of the season – by Brent Goska, who passed for 206 yards in UND’s 23-19 loss at the Alerus Center.
“Watching film of last year, it was ugly football,” UND coach Chris Mussman said. “Now, we have the opportunity to get the ball down the field.”
Marcus Hendrickson has re-energized the UND passing game. The Perham, Minn., native captains an offense averaging a Big Sky-best 46.8 points per game.
Mussman said UND’s offensive key against the Mustangs will be to capitalize on its opportunities, which might be limited due to Cal Poly’s ball-control triple-option offensive attack.
UND would like to start fast, as coming from behind is difficult when the Mustangs often win the time-of-possession battle.
The Mustangs, who are
3-0 for the first time since 2006, are led by quarterback Andre Broadous and running back Deonte Williams. Broadous rushed for 162 yards and two touchdowns against UND last season.
Williams is averaging 8.1 yards per carry this year and leads the Big Sky with 161.3 rushing yards per game.
With the combination of Broadous and Williams, the Mustangs have the country’s third-best rushing offense.
“It’s not just the option; the other stuff has hurt us,” Mussman said. “But you have to stop the option first.”
Miller writes for the Grand Forks Herald