Kitchen’s Keys: Robert Morris vs. North Dakota

Analytics guru Dan Kitchen takes a closer look into the RMU/North Dakota matchup on Saturday

Dan Kitchen, Staff Reporter

Tomorrow, Robert Morris and North Dakota will meet at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, North Dakota.  Both are looking to rebound from disappointing losses in their opening games. Here are four key points for RMU to focus on if they want to improve to .500 (1-1).

1. Be prepared to stop a heavy ground game.

In their opener vs. San Jose State, UND rushed the ball 32 times and passed only 20. Gaining under four yards per carry on those plays might not be the result necessary to persuade a coach to carry that same run-heavy gameplan into the following game, but I would have to imagine that Coach Bubba Schweigert of North Dakota is salivating at the opportunity to run against a defense that allowed over 400 yards on the ground in their opener.

Robert Morris needs to come prepared for North Dakota to try and echo Eastern Kentucky’s performance of last week. If RMU can stop them on the ground, North Dakota will have to shift to the pass game, where the Colonials can look to add to the three interceptions from the season opener.

2. Identify UND’s offensive scheme early.

Even if Robert Morris stuffs the North Dakota ground game throughout the first quarter, that doesn’t guarantee the offense will shift into a pass-heavy strategy; it only increases the likelihood of it. Coach Banaszak and his staff must keep a watchful eye on the early tendencies of the North Dakota offense. If the game remains close through the end of the first quarter, UND will be changing their offensive scheme to try and gain an edge. Bonus fact: last year (under a different coach), North Dakota favored passing to running, so the ability is there.

3. Exploit defensive weaknesses.

RMU wasn’t the only team in the nation to get torched by an opposing offense in its opener. North Dakota allowed three passing touchdowns to San Jose State quarterback Blake Jurich and an additional two touchdowns on the ground. The holes are there for the Colonials to capitalize on – they just need to identify which ones to target the most.

If the ground game sputters as it did against Eastern Kentucky, embrace the new spread offense from last week, where Luke Brumbaugh set the school record for pass attempts in a game. In addition to allowing 256 yards passing and three scores, UND’s defense failed to record a sack or interception against San Jose State. Robert Morris could get close to the 300-yard passing mark Saturday.

4. Focus on the progress made, not the final score.
Losing your opener by nineteen and surrendering over 600 yards of offense can rattle the minds of a football team fairly easily. Hidden among the more negative statistics of the game was that Robert Morris embraced a new offense that changed the emphasis from pro-style rushing to spread out passing. They recorded three interceptions, four turnovers total.

The promise Robert Morris showed wasn’t in a column on the scoreboard, but it was there. The opening game is done with, and dwelling on it while facing the team in green and white will do no good. Improving the blatant weaknesses (Run Offense, Run Defense) evident from the Eastern Kentucky loss will get RMU in the win column Saturday.