Minot State University coach Paul Rudolph thinks the Beavers can expose the Northern State University (S.D.) secondary today.
Provided freshman quarterback Zac Cunha can find time.
The Wolves (2-3) have 12 sacks and nine interceptions this season, a product of blitzing from all angles out of their 3-4 defensive alignment. Rudolph said Northern State has blitzed from nine of the 11 positions on the field this season.
Minot State University freshman quarterback Zac Cunha reels in a snap behind his offensive line during a game against the University of Mary at Herb Parker Stadium on Sept. 29. MSU takes on Northern State University today in Aberdeen, S.D.
"I think it's gonna be really important making sure we get hats on the right guys," Rudolph said. "If we give (Cunha) a chance, I think we're gonna be able to get some seams out there. But it's tough to get any chances if he's laying on his back."
Cunha has tossed 10 interceptions in four starts this season - a dangerous stat against a defense that relies on takeaways.
"Being in the right place at the right time, that's part of it," Wolves coach Tom Dosch said. "Sometimes that's by design and sometimes that's by luck. We've been able to do both. We've rushed the passer and forced some mistakes. We've also dropped a couple (potential interceptions) and forced some fumbles that we didn't recover, so we'd like to have more."
MSU (1-4) has moved the ball more efficiently of late and is coming off a 22-point fourth quarter in a comeback win last Saturday over the University of Mary. Cunha has thrown for five touchdowns and nearly 550 yards in the Beavers' last two games.
Cunha said the Wolves' blitzing could free up receivers Glyn Borel, Wayne Peters and Porter Sturm. Northern State held Minnesota State-Moorhead to a school-record minus-40 rushing yards last Saturday in a 45-7 victory.
"I think our wide receivers against their defensive backs, since they do blitz a lot, that's gonna be a key matchup," Cunha said. "If we can run the ball against their blitzing style, control the front, I think those are going to be the two main matchups. I think that's true in any game, but especially this one."
On the defensive side of the ball, the Beavers will key on mobile sophomore quarterback Jared Jacobson, who averages 71 rushing yards per game.
"He's a bit of a scrambler," Dosch said. "But we have a lot of things in our offense where he's designed to run. We do some reads with him where he can take off. He'll improvise a little bit but some of them will be called in the huddle."
Rudolph said Minnesota State-Mankato uses similar run-read plays with their quarterbacks. In MSU's season opener, three Mankato QBs combined for more than 120 rushing yards.
"I think it'll help us, the fact that we've seen it a little bit," Rudolph said. "They're still a little different styles, but we've gotta be able to stop the quarterback run. ... If we stay away from the big plays, we got a chance."
Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. in Aberdeen, S.D.