I have purposefully not been on the ss.com since the game so I am sure that many have given their thoughts about the game and our FB program. As I am not sure where to post this, I will start a new thread.
While many were quite optimistic about the outcome of the game, we are a long ways from being able to compete with the Bison. Some of my thoughts:
I don't think we played poorly. The SU players are simply better than ours - bigger, stronger, faster and more confident. A confidence that comes with playing for the best FCS program in the country for the last many years. It is a given that SU gets the majority of recruits they want. They don't lose many to other FCS programs. Their analysis of prospects is very good which means the athletes they sign each year are better than ours (and most everyone's). You will seldom beat a well-coached team that has better FB players at most every position.
For those of you who have been around awhile, you remember that we lost 12 straight games to SU in the '80's and early '90's. In the middle of that drought, we lost 49-0, 62-13 and 42-10. We then started to catch up and, in my opinion, had a better team the last 2-3 years before we actually stopped the streak in '92. We could talk about those games but it really doesn't serve any purpose at this point. The bottom line is that SU was much better than us back then and we eventually caught up to them and had the upper hand in head-to-head meetings starting in '93. Unfortunately, I am afraid it will take a long time to catch up this time around. SU is just that damn good and, with their resources and tradition, it will be very difficult to reach their competitive level.
Enough about SU!! Thoughts about our program:
I think we are making some progress. A win this weekend is crucial to our season. If we can win 2 of the next 3 and remain relatively healthy, we can have a very successful season.
I know Bubba well but I honestly don't know if he is or is not the guy that can move the program forward to where we need it to be. The two new coaches hired after last season appear to be great choices - I sure wish those changes would have taken place a couple of years earlier. I do have confidence in Chaves - he wants to win and I think he will make good decisions when it comes to all of our sports.
I understand our wanting our OL to be quicker, etc. with our new offense but there are hundreds of 300+ pound OL across the country who are mobile enough for this type of offense. It scares me that apparently thought we didn't have any who could be effective without losing some significant weight. We are really small up front - hopefully, it will work!
I don't understand the situation we are in with our place kicking. For decades, we have always had a very good PKer. (Some may question whether Taubenheim fits into that category - he certainly did until a leg injury really hindered him his last two years). With that history and playing indoors, we shouldn't have a problem finding a very talented PK and someone who can kickoff into the end zone - whether that is one guy or two.
Everyone agrees that we must develop better quality depth. We are making some progress there but still have a long ways to go. It doesn't happen overnight and mostly relies on your recruiting efforts.
Speaking of recruiting, I think we are making some progress there but it remains a real challenge. I follow recruiting very closely and am the guy who annually updates Wiki with prospects that are either interested in UND or UND may have some interest in them. The 230+ kids listed have either been actively recruited by UND or attended our camps, Jr. days, been invited to attend games, etc. I will be the first to acknowledge that my interest in recruiting does not make me an expert. However, after following it closely for so long, I firmly believe that we have to sign kids that are also offered by other good programs. I know there are Santiagos out there that aren't heavily recruited but, if we don't land a lot of kids that other programs also want, we won't be successful. Many feel quite good about the commitments we have so far this year but, as has been the case in recent years, only a handful of them had/have offers from other FCS or FBS schools. I don't think we can be a consistent playoff contender when we sign a majority of recruits who only had offers from DII schools. We have certainly offered more "wanted" recruits in recent years - we need to figure out how we can sign more of them.
Continuing on the recruiting front, until we start winning more consistently and Phase II of the HPC is completed, it will be challenging. There are many reasons: we are the most distant school from the majority of the prospects we are recruiting, the perception (real or perceived) that GF winter weather is difficult to handle, the fact that it is rather difficult/time consuming to get to GF (for parents, family, girlfriends, etc.), it is more costly to bring more-distant kids in for recruiting trips as compared to other schools that we recruit against, etc. I think the biggest issue is for many of the MN, WS, NE, IA and IL kids is the distance and the fact that they and their families have a to drive another few hours (or one hour by SU) after they pass SDSU, USD, and, for some, UNI, etc. Most of these kids realize that they aren't going to be playing beyond college. They and their parents & girlfriends want to be able to see their games without driving hundreds of miles one way. Joining the MVC will help with this to some degree.
Again, Phase II is essential to our success but until a couple big-money donors step forward, it is not going to happen. We are working hard at it but no one is saying "yes". I hope I am wrong but it may be awhile before Phase II becomes a reality. It may take our locker room facilities at Memorial being condemned before people fully understand the need!
Lastly, for the FB program (all programs other than hockey) to be successful at UND, they need better funding. Recent presidents (I won't include Kennedy as he is a whole different story) have not thought athletics were a priority. We can't do anything about that now. Hopefully, the new president will be pro-athletics. That will help but there is still the challenge of finding the $. Budgets will continue to be very tight. That is the primary reason I started the Let's Help Bubba campaigns a few years ago. The money needed to improve results will need to come primarily from alumni/boosters (along with improved attendance, etc) - the institution will not be able to help a great deal! The few thousand $ we raise each year certainly doesn't make a huge difference but it does help and it is greatly appreciated. We have reached $10K but, as expected, the donations have stopped after the Saturday loss. If anyone can help, please do!
Importantly, I do know Chaves is working hard trying find more $. How successful he will be remains to be seen. His predecessor basically ignored this important duty!
Wow - that was a lot longer than I anticipated. I am curious what others think about these issues.