Notebook: Things to watch when Northern Colorado football faces Lamar – The Denver Post

It’s been more than 660 days since the University of Northern Colorado football team suited up for fans at Nottingham Field, and it wants to continue the success it had this past weekend.

UNC (1-1) defeated Houston Baptist (0-2), 45-13, on the road Saturday night. Here are things from the game to look for when Lamar comes to town Saturday.

The possibility of multiple QBs?

After week one, the biggest question about the quarterback position was how graduate starter Dylan McCaffrey was going to clean up his “rusty” play. This week, however, the question is whether McCaffrey will be the full-time starter.

The Michigan transfer began the game as QB1. While McCaffrey threw 9-of-16 passes for 63 yards in the first half, he also handed the ball off 17 times for 53 yards.

Junior backup quarterback Conner Martin stepped into the starting role in the second half after McCaffrey sustained an apparent upper body injury. He stayed on the sideline in the third and fourth periods but never re-entered the game.

Martin went 8 for 12 for 135 yards and two touchdowns. The Huskies got past the UNC defense and sacked him twice. He also managed to get the ball into the hands of multiple teammates to extend the run game.

Freshman quarterbacks Alec Lewis and Andrew Brister each played on the final drive against Houston Baptist, both going a perfect 1-of-1 for nine yards apiece.

With the overall success of Martin, the Bears could consider giving him more playing time to diversify the offensive scheme and help protect McCaffrey’s health.

The grad student was expected to receive further evaluation upon the team’s return to Greeley, but the Tribune has not received any updated status about his condition. He nursed multiple injuries for a large portion of his time at Michigan.

Establishing the run game

Freshman running back Gene Sledge Jr. helped the Bears get out to a quick start, going up 14-0 in the first quarter, and build momentum on the ground.

The team struggled to get good field position in its matchup against the University of Colorado, but its ability to get first downs — even if it was only a few yards at a time — set UNC up for success.

In the third quarter, the Bears’ passing offense faltered, but they were able to put together enough rushing yards to get in field goal position.

While Northern Colorado was able to make moves on the ground, its defense was able to slow the Huskies. Houston Baptist finished with just 59 net rushing yards; the Bears recorded 10 tackles for 45 lost yards.

Defensive coordinator Scott Darnell said earlier this season that stopping the opponent run game would be a key to the team’s success. The team also wanted to force turnovers, which it did. If the dual offensive and defensive threat on the ground can hold up, UNC could finish the season in decent position.

Still too many penalties

Northern Colorado is working through growing pains — this was just the second official game the team has played — but everyone needs to keep their emotions in check and remain focused. The team gave up 90 yards on eight penalties, while Houston Baptist logged 45 yards on four penalties.

The Bears had 50 yards in penalties against CU. They can afford penalties against teams like the Huskies, but that’s not the case in the Big Sky. The players need to prepare for stiffer competition; several conference teams are sitting in the middle of the pack at 1-1.

UNC’s biggest penalties came after two unsportsmanlike conduct calls — one was on junior offensive lineman Kevin Williams Jr. who did a cartwheel after a touchdown — a personal foul and face mask call on junior linebacker Jace Bobo.

Fans on Twitter said the call against Williams, who is 6-foot-5 and over 300 pounds, was silly and Bobo’s grab to the face mask didn’t look intentional. Still, the Bears can’t continue putting themselves in a position to lose yardage.

Northern Colorado has a chance to continue its improvement this week against the Cardinals. It will be Greeley’s first chance to see coach Ed McCaffrey at home. Kick off is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Nottingham Field. Tickets are still available or fans can watch on ESPN+.

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