FARGO, N.D. – If any opponent of the Colorado School of Mines football team wants a preview of the Orediggers' returning personnel this year, they can probably call North Dakota State. The Bison coaches have been watching hours of Mines tape from the 2014 season.
It's all in the name of trying to figure out what new Montana head coach Bob Stitt will bring to the Washington-Grizzly Stadium table on Saturday afternoon. Stitt is in his first year after a successful 15-year run at Mines, a school where he developed an offense that carried a reputation of having a spread-out, high-flying, high-tempo attack.
"Not knowing what to expect coming into a game can always throw you for a loop," said Bison middle linebacker Nick DeLuca, "so we're just trying to focus on what we think they're going to do."
What will the Grizzlies be trying to do? Most likely have one-running back, four-wide receiver sets with a variety of short passes and multi-dimensional looks.
"A lot of dip-and-dunk passes," said Bison cornerback C.J. Smith.
And perhaps a sprinkling of a one-foot pass that gained national notoriety in 2012 when West Virginia scored on the play four times against Clemson in the Orange Bowl. Afterward, Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen, in an interview on national TV, gave props to "his good friend Bob Stitt" for the play, which actually counted as four touchdown passes from the WVU quarterback.
NDSU has inflicted damage over the years with its jet sweep, where a receiver in motion takes a handoff from the quarterback at full speed and tries to go around end. In the Stitt play case, the quarterback, in short shotgun formation, takes the snap and immediately flips it forward to the receiver in motion. If the receiver drops it, it's an incomplete forward pass.
The reality is Mines only used that play a handful of times all of last season. Stitt, who serves as the offensive coordinator, brought his passing game coordinator Nolan Swett with him from Mines and the Grizzlies will have a few veteran receivers like Jamaal Jones and Ellis Henderson to rely on.
"It's been difficult," said NDSU head coach Chris Klieman. "We've been preparing for what we believe or think they'll do. We also know they'll throw us a lot of curve balls."
Klieman said one thing that could help the NDSU defense is facing the Bison offense in practice, a West Coast offense that continually changes to multiple sets.
"The main thing is who will adjust better on Saturday," Klieman said, because they're going to do a lot of different things and we're going to do some different things. In the first game, you really don't know."