Breaking down the Sioux

By Chris Dertz


Quarterback: The Fighting Sioux look like they’ll be running a two quarterback system in 2010. Primary starter, senior Jake Landry, started all 11 games for North Dakota last season, where backup Brent Goska saw action in six games.

Landry is the Fighting Sioux’s primary threat through the air, where Goska generally comes in as a change of pace, and is more of a rushing quarterback. In the season opener against Idaho, Goska had 47 rushing yards on six attempts, and Landry tallied 122 passing yards, but threw two interceptions and no touchdowns. Landry also ranked second on the team last season in rushing yards, with 217.


Running Backs: Like many teams in the college game today, North Dakota uses a two-back system, running tailbacks Josh Murray and Mitch Sutton.

Sutton led the team in rushing yards in 2009, tallying 689 yards on 149 carries with six touchdowns.

In the season opener, the backs combined to total 89 rushing yards on 18 carries.

The running of North Dakota’s quarterbacks also helps to take the pressure off of the tailbacks.

“[North Dakota] can be dangerous,” said NIU safety Tommy Davis. “They do a lot of things on offense that are difficult to coach against for defensive coaches. We’ve got to be ready to be play.”


Offensive Line: North Dakota’s offensive line is one of the bigger groups you’ll find in a Football Championship Subdivision opponent.

None of the five starters weigh less than 282 pounds, and all stand 6’3″ or taller.

In 2010, however, experience, or the lack thereof, could be the biggest factor in determining the unit’s effectiveness.

Three of the starters, including sophomore center Ian McGurran, are underclassmen.


Wide Receivers: The playmakers for the Fighting Sioux had trouble in the season opener against Idaho.

Catlin Solum led North Dakota with seven catches for 45 yards, followed by Greg Hardin, who had five catches for 27 yards.

Short completions were the name of the game for North Dakota in its opener, and this is likely because North Dakota makes a lot of completions to its tailbacks. Chris Anderson and Seth Wisthoff figure to be UND’s top weapons on the outside, but only Anderson had a catch in the opener, which was for 14 yards.



Defensive Line: North Dakota’s defensive alignment up front is going to cause some headaches for NIU’s offensive line. According to Huskie center Scott Wedige, the Fighting Sioux play a variation of the old 50 defense, with their nose tackle, 6’4″, 286-pound senior Ty Boyle, playing heads up and three other players as down linemen.

“They will be a little bit of an adjustment cause our defense has played [the 50 defense] a little bit in camp, so it’s nothing too foreign to us,” Wedige said. “It’s just a lot of different calls. They blitz a lot out of it so they have a lot of different blitzes.”

Rounding out the defensive line for North Dakota is junior Broc Bellmore, who weighs in at 270 pounds, and sophomore Ross Brenneman.


Linebackers: The fighting Sioux play with four linebackers, the standout being senior weak side outside linebacker Ryan Kasowski. A member of the Great West All-Conference first team last season, Kasowski tallied 7.5 tackles for a loss during 2009.

Perhaps the most important component of the North Dakota linebacking corps is its experience. All four starters are seniors, and two of the primary backups on the inside are juniors in Dan Hendrickson and Mitch Goertz. This experience could be key for the Fighting Sioux with all of the different blitz packages they run.


Secondary: On paper, the North Dakota secondary looks to be solid, with two cornerbacks over six feet tall and an upperclassman starting at every position.

Led by two senior safeties in Joel Schwenzfeier and Kris Ankenbauer, the secondary’s appearance can be deceiving.

The unit has struggled thus far in 2010, giving up 547 yards of total offense in the season opener against Idaho.

421 of those yards came through the air, including three passing touchdowns.


Special Teams: Redshirt freshman place-kicker Zeb Miller didn’t get a chance to test his accuracy in a game situation in North Dakota’s opener against Idaho. The Fighting Sioux were held scoreless and Miller didn’t attempt any extra points or field goals in the contest.

Punter Brett Cameron certainly got a workout, though, punting seven times and averaging 39.9 yards per attempt. The return game could be important for UND as well, as tailback Josh Murray had a 21-yard punt return, and cornerback Dominique Hawkins averaged 20.6 yards on five kick returns.