The 2015 college football season got underway on Saturday, not with a major battle of two traditional football powers, but with a matchup of North Dakota State and Montana, two FCS championship contenders. This did not make it any less exciting a game. The two schools both figure to be in contention, and NDSU is the four-time defending National Champions. Adding intrigue was the season debut of Carson Wentz, the Bison quarterback who could wind up being an early round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. On Saturday afternoon, he had the full attention of the nation.
Wentz caught the eye of draft analysts last season, when he led the Bison to yet another championship while throwing for over 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns. He also rushed for 600 yards and another six scores. His big arm, great size, and ability to move impressed those who watched him, and he became a player to watch for 2015. On Saturday, Wentz set out to justify all the praise.
Looking at the numbers, it’s hard to say Wentz didn’t have a solid day. His signature cannon-arm was on display, and he made some nice throws into traffic. He passed for two touchdowns and ran for two more, displaying some nifty footwork to elude would-be tacklers. He kept his team in the game, and nearly got the win. It wasn’t a perfect day however.
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While Wentz displayed the strong arm he’s known for, he also showed an issue with accuracy down the field. When throwing deep, he didn’t throw it so much with power, instead putting a lot of loft on the ball, and overshooting his receiver. This may be the result of questionable footwork, which is something he will be asked to work on as a professional. His accuracy was also a bit inconsistent overall. He made some NFL throws, but at other times, just missed his receiver. In the pocket, he had good presence and awareness, though he was under duress quite often. His poise was evident, as was his toughness, as he continued to compete despite an injury that limited his ability to scramble.
Saturday’s game didn’t go quite as planned for Wentz and NDSU, as the team lost the game, and Wentz was outperformed by Montana quarterback Brady Gustafson. Wentz did show flashes of the ability that will almost certainly get him drafted in the first half of the draft next year. It wasn’t his best game, but it’s a long season, and he still seems destined for a career in the NFL.