So for all the things that went wrong today...there is one thing to remember. The only worse thing would have been to lose.
The W flag is flying over the Doyt tonight, as BG just eked out a 1-point win over North Dakota.
It was pretty much the only redeeming feature.
BG's offense and defense were inconsistent, special teams not involving Joe Davidson were poor, placekicking was sad, BG turned the ball over 3 times, BG got conservative at the end and couldn't make 3 first downs to ice the game...BG was beaten in every phase of the game and was out-coached, too.
And a few inches on Alphonso Mack's outstretched hand from a home loss to an FCS team.
That didn't happen. It's a win. But it is the second disconcerting performance in a row.
A few thoughts.
The offense is just not effective right now. That starts with the QB, but it isn't all on him. Knapke was--as he has always been--very inconsistent. He made two great throws to Scottie Miller that led to long TDs and saved the game. In other news, he completed only 58% of his passes, threw 2 picks and was sacked 3 times. After BG took a 27-20 lead, they had only 3 more first downs for the remainder of the game.
And, yes, James Morgan did get a shot, and he threw two passes and completed one and had his second pick-six in as many games.
It isn't all on the QBs. There were fewer drops but BG receivers need to fight more for the ball when there is a contested pass...one of which ended up in an INT.
BG had trouble getting the run established as well. Josh Cleveland averaged 4 yards per carry and Fred Coppet averaged 3.3 yards per carry. (Coppet also left the game with what looked like an arm injury).
Finally, while I felt the line held up OK in Columbus, I felt they were losing a lot of battles out there today.
So, yes, Knapke has to play better, but it just isn't on him. As Coach said after the game, the QB is the key to the offense, however.
Watching them feels just like 2014.
Coach Jinks said in the post-game that BG's defense kept them in the game. Which he is right about. Also much like 2014, the defense was on the field hanging on for dear life after the offense flashed on and off the field.
I was shocked to see that UND had only 4 of 17 on third down. I could have sworn that was worse. Now that I think about it, there was more than one time that UND threw short of the sticks and BG came up with big, solid open field tackles to prevent the first down.
Other times, especially late when they might have been tired, the tackling was way less effective.
Most worrisome was the success that UND had running the ball. John Santiago--who is a good runner--was 18 of 119, which is 6.6 yards per carry. Before the season we had feared that BG might not be able to get off the field on the run, and that was certainly an issue in this game. (Collectively, the RBs for the Fighting Hawks had 5.7 yards per carry).
Their completion percentage was similar to BG's at 58%, with only 10 yards a completion---but no picks and they were sacked 4 times.
And BG's defense gave up only two touchdowns.
It just seemed like they were unable to string plays together. For example, in the 4th, after a penalty and a sack, UND was 3rd and 20 from their own 6--huge opportunity for BG to take field position and put the game away. BG gave up a first down pass on 3rd and 20. Same drive, after another sack, UND converted a 2nd and 18.
UND also was able to pass on the game's final drive.
BG did make the play on the conversion, as Alphonso Mack made a tip to break up the pass and ensure the victory.
Finally, Coach Jinks was positive about special teams. I wouldn't go that far. Any special teams play that did not include Joseph Davidson was shaky. BG msised a 30-yard FG and an extra point, cost themselves 17 yards by trying to run a FG out of the end zone and downing it, and gave up a 46 yard kickoff return. Special teams were far from a strong point.
More on this tomorrow...including a look at where we are now. For tonight, as ugly as it was, it would have been worse to lose.