Bears football fails to fight back in a loss to North Dakota

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The University of Northern Colorado offense lines up against the McNeese State defense in a game Saturday at Nottingham Field in Greeley. Photo courtesy of UNC athletics.

This weekend was supposed to be the first win for the University of Northern Colorado’s football team as it was favored by three points. The result was an utter disaster.

It did not help that Nottingham felt like it had been transformed into an away game. Third only to Montana and Montana State, North Dakota brought a barrage of fans. It even had its own tailgating section.

To top it off, the music school invited the Pride of the North marching band. The battle of the bands was certainly an interesting addition, but the Pride of the Rockies marching band would be the only UNC team to win at Nottingham.

The offense could not complete a pass, the defense could not stop the run, and special teams fumbled. Overall, it was a runaway train with no brakes and heading for a cliff.

Defensively, the Bears gave up 24 points in the first half alone, which is more points than they gave up all game versus McNeese. The bleeding was slowed in the second half to only 14 more points given up.

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The biggest downside to the defense was the 351 rushing yards given up, with two players rushing over 100 yards plus. Defend Nottingham is the motto the team decided on this year, but this was the first time Nottingham was not defended honorably.

“We have to do a better job tackling, that’s it, we just need to tackle,” UNC linebacker Luke Nelson said. “There’s a lot of guys out there playing for each other. Playing for our brothers”.

Offensively, the Bears struggled to complete a pass with Mott only completing two of 11 attempts. Mott did not return later in the game due to “medical” reasons stated by Coach Collins, who did not want to comment further than the one-word answer.

The run game was present on Saturday, but not to the extent the Bears hoped it to be. Trae Riek and Milo Hall finally had similar rushing yards (55, 54 with one touchdown), but they only totaled for 109 yards, which was less than the top two rushers for North Dakota.

Trae Riek echoed similar sentiments as Nelson.

“We made some technical mistakes up front,” Riek said. “We are gonna bring the wins out. We aren’t gonna quit.”

Special teams had a devastating fumble in front of the Bears own endzone, but were promising other than that with good returns from Braxton George.

How It Happened

First Half

The Bears defense showed good signs of the “bend, but don’t break” type defense. The eight-minute, 15-play drive was limited to only a field goal for the Hawks.

Punting was the theme of the rest of the first quarter with both defenses producing 3-and-outs. An exception came along when an unfortunate fumble by the Bears returner was turned over to the Hawks on the UNC 8 yard-line.

North Dakota would capitalize on the field position with a touchdown.

UNC finally got some steam rolling by marching down the field confidently and finished with a 1-yard run by Trae Riek.

The Hawks would return the favor by the menacing duo of Johannesson and Oliveria storming through the Bear defense.

UNC would go three-and-out once again and the Hawks would find the endzone after overpowering the defense.

Half time: North Dakota 24, UNC 7

Second Half

The entire third quarter was filled with punts from both teams, except one batted pass from UNC that was successfully intercepted by Sherand Boyd Jr.

The fourth quarter, however, would add insult to injury for the Bears.

Brady Oliveria would continue the brutal rushing attack on the Bears. Oliveria put on a show by juking, spinning and diving for a 15-yard touchdown run.

Three plays later, Connor Regan threw an interception to a wide-open defender.

North Dakota would stall out on that drive, but on their next drive the rushing onslaught would resume with a touchdown run by Otis Weah.

Connor Regan would be able to end the game with a optimistic touchdown drive sparked by two 10-plus yard pass completions to Noah Sol, one for a touchdown.

Final: North Dakota 38, UNC 13   

The Mirror’s Keys to the Game Checklist

Defense:

Play a full defensive game: Not this week. Last week against Weber State was both very good and a work in progress. This week the lone upside was a Sherand Boyd Jr. interception.

Prevent 20-plus yard plays: The plays were kept below 20, but the consistent six to 15 yards does not scream success either. No breakaways, but a lot of breakthroughs.

Work together: This will definitely be the theme of this week’s practice since Coach Collins said this was “the first week this team did not fight back, they got punched in the mouth and never punched back”.

Offense:

Throw the ball away: Mott did start throwing the ball away which was mature improvement, but he did also throw an interception. The pick did not count due to a penalty so his interception stats are safe for this week.

Quit calling screen plays: The less than helpful play still seems to be a failed experiment. It was not called often, but overall the team may have lost yardage by calling that play. The tackles and guards are simply not equipped for that kind of blocking.

Use what works: Nothing seemed to work consistently. The two scoring drives and the interception were the only true bright spots for the Bears.

 

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