AND Football Playoff Basics: How to Watch, Injuries and Matchups with Weber State – Grand Forks Herald

OGDEN, Utah — AND coach Bubba Schweigert highlighted two numbers this week.

Schweigert emphasized 24 and 0-0.

24 is the number of teams remaining in FCS and 0-0 refers to a level playing field in FCS playoffs.

AND and Weber State play the first round of the playoffs at 3 p.m. Saturday in Ogden, Utah.

The Hawks must start fresh after a disastrous defensive performance in a rivalry loss to North Dakota State to wrap up the regular season.

UND’s run defense gave the Bison more than 360 rushing yards.

And for the Hawks who are yet to win an away game in the FCS playoffs (Nicholls State in 2019, James Madison in spring 2021), history is at stake.

“The cool thing about the playoffs is they’re all 0-0,” said UND linebacker Ted Mullin. “Previous things that happened during the season, you learn from them now, but it’s a new season.

“I think you’re always trying to make history, so there’s some fuel. Playoffs generally bring a lot of excitement. It’s all or nothing. For a senior, this could be one last exercise. This attitude drives you a lot.”

Kicking off: 3 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Stewart Stadium, Ogden, Utah.

TV: none.

Radio: 96.1 FM (Jack Michaels via play-by-play, Tom Dosch analyst)

Stream: ESPN-Plus, Tim Emrich Play-by-Play, Tyoka Jackson Analyst.

Injuries: AND ended the regular season with a surprise scrape in right tackle when starter Seth Anderson was ill. Backup Sam Hagen played against the Bison. Schweigert said Anderson is expected back this week. AND saw a few additional injuries against NDSU, with linebacker Wyatt Pedigo and safety Kadon Kauppinen struggling with injuries throughout the game. Both players returned to the game in Fargo, but they’re worth watching ahead of the game.

Weber State running back Josh Davis has missed a handful of games this year with an ankle injury. He played through the injury at Northern Arizona last week but appeared to be limited at times.

The Fighting Hawks must Stop the run. The Big Sky Conference may be known for being a passing league, but Weber State under coach Jay Hill was the odd ball in that style. The Wildcats usually have a balanced offense, and they’ll watch plenty of movies where AND is exposed in the run game. The Hawks fought the Bison with fits of running, which allowed medium wins to explode for huge pickups. AND desperately need to get Weber State to snap it up again. The Hawks can’t give up explosive plays. On offense, UND quarterback Tommy Schuster needs to find some consolation after being knocked out of his game against NDSU for what may be the only time this season. The bison stopped Schuster from lengthening many plays, and you can expect Weber State to try to emulate that success. The Hawks and offensive coordinator Danny Freund can improve Schuster’s comfort by running the ball successfully, which the Hawks did at times against NDSU. AND can’t afford to fall behind quickly and have to chase a score as early as against NDSU. If AND’s offense can be patient and balanced, it was the kind of unit that can outperform anyone.

The Wildcats must Break UND’s will early on by running the football and winning the line of scrimmage. Much of the Hawks’ defensive struggles this year have been tied to secondary school, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Weber State needs to throw the ball around. The backend struggles with both pass coverage and tackle in the running game. Weber State can eliminate any fear of a pass rush if the Wildcats can uncover that runner-up by running the football and breaking free in the second level. Special teams could also be an important part of the game, as Weber State has perhaps the most dangerous returnee in the country AND AND has struggled to cover kicks this season. UND’s kicking game will almost certainly kick away kicks, out-of-bounds, or Abraham Williams in general. At the same time, the Hawks have reversed the dynamics in games this year through key games on special teams. Weber State had four bad punt snaps for safety in a game against Montana State earlier this year.