North Dakota 2015 FCS Football Playoff Capsule

North Dakota Fighting Hawks
Big Sky


North Dakota started the season strong with a nice win over Wyoming. And they finished strong by beating Montana State, Northern Colorado and Cal Poly in their final three games of the seasons. But in the middle of the year, UND lost three games in a row to Idaho State, Weber State and Montana. None of those losses were good losses either. Losing to Montana is fine, but getting blown out 42-16 was not promising. But, in the end, North Dakota did enough to reach seven wins and earn a spot in the playoffs.

2015 Record: 7-4, 5-3
Coach: Bubba Schweigert

Big Wins: 9/5 at Wyoming (24-13), 10/3 at Portland State (19-17)
Bad Losses: 10/10 Idaho State (31-37), 10/17 at Weber State (24-25)

North Dakota is at their best when the ball is on the ground and they can control the clock. Running back John Santiago rushed for 1,459 yards and 16 touchdowns and quickly turned into the team’s workhorse as a freshman. Iwarri Smith, Kyle Norberg and Brady Oliveira are all capable backs too and will keep the opposing defense off balance. The run defense is pretty impressive also and allowed less than 100 yards per game on the ground. Linebackers Will Ratelle and Jake Disterhaupt get most of the credit for the talent in the front seven. But players like Brandon Dranka and Noah Johnson get things started in the trenches. With linebacker depth that includes Taj Rich and Brian Labat, the front seven is loaded and deep.

The defense will give up big plays through the air though. The unit ranked 10th in the Big Sky in pass defense and 114th in the nation. Deion Harris is a nice talent to build around, but this team can falter against inferior opposition as long as that opposition has a decent passing game. Against Idaho State, UND let Michael Sanders throw for 427 yards and four touchdowns. North Dakota shut down the ground game, but was not able to keep up offensively. Although a lower scoring game, the story was pretty much the same against Weber State. Statistically speaking, the only thing worse than the North Dakota pass defense is their passing offense. Quarterback Keaton Studsrud usually does what he needs to do though. He is an efficient quarterback who has completed 60 percent of his passes and thrown just three interceptions compared to a dozen touchdowns. North Dakota has been able to grind out wins with Santiago carrying the load and Studsrud avoiding mistakes, but that will only take them so far in the playoffs.

Statistical Leaders:
Rushing: John Santiago, RB, 1,459 yards
Passing: Keaton Studsrud, QB, 1,262 yards
Receiving: Luke Stanley, WR, 312 yards
Tackles: Will Ratelle, LB, 110
Sacks: Jake Disterhaupt, LB, 4.0
Interceptions: Deion Harris, DB, 2

2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 240.6 (11th in nation, 3rd in conference)
Passing Offense: 129.5 (111, 12)
Total Offense: 370.1 (64, 10)
Scoring Offense: 26.4 (61, 9)
Rushing Defense: 95.0 (7, 1)
Pass Defense: 264.5 (114, 10)
Total Defense: 359.5 (44, 3)
Scoring Defense: 26.2 (62, 5)
Turnover Margin: -0.20 (73, 7)
Sacks: 2.70 (18, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 2.10 (64, 7)

Recent Playoff Appearances:
No Tournament History

*all team stats through 11/14


Playoff Central