Samuel G. Mustari, who covers Northern Colorado for the Greeley Tribune, provides his insight into this matchup with CU:
Bears key to this game
1. QB Jacob Knipp: UNC’s leader on and off the field and specifically the face of the program needs to move the chains. His protection isn’t expected to be great, but if he can get rid of the ball in a hurry on short passes, the Bears’ offense has a chance to succeed, especially with receivers Alex Wesley, Ellis Onic II and Hakeem Deggs.
2. RB Trae Riek: Arguably the best back in the Big Sky Conference. Great in the open field and has the ability to break tackles through the line and into the second tier of defenders.
3. SS Stone Kane: Technically, the leader in the defensive backfield that wasn’t very good a year ago. Kane needs to be huge in run support.
Who they’re talking about
CU players the Bears have talked most about this week:
1. Obviously, CU back Phillip Lindsay has to be limited to less than 100 yards rushing. UNC can’t afford to let him run loose.
2. The combo of QB Steven Montez, whom UNC coach Earnest Collins Jr., calls “big and fast with a strong arm,” and wideouts Shay Fields and Bryce Bobo, who could cause the Bears troubles if they get 1-on-1 coverage.
Key statistic for Northern Colorado
Turnovers and big plays. UNC needs both. A big defensive turnover could sway the momentum. A long completion or even a big run back by Onic or Deggs could keep the game close and give the Bears at least a chance to possibly win. Big plays can lessen CU’s depth.
Northern Colorado can win this game if …
It’s going to take a fast start. The Bears need to move the chains early to gain confidence. Knipp’s ability as a QB could make a big difference. He hasn’t played a full game in two seasons due to injury, and he’s champing at the bit to show up big in Boulder, which is 15 minutes from his home in Arvada. Defensively, the Bears need to get on and off the field. Long CU drives could wear UNC’s defense down. Of course, all of this is a lot easier said than done.