GRAND FORKS, N.D. - The Fighting Sioux defense - a unit that ranked at the top of several categories in the Great West Conference in 2011 - was once again the story of the day, allowing only one touchdown and a pair of field goals during a 69-play scrimmage at Memorial Stadium.
"Sometimes you get a little ahead of yourself," UND head coach Chris Mussman said when asked to comment about what he has seen from the defense. "We're a good defense, not a great defense - only time will tell on that.
"But, we're only going to be as good as we want to be. That is everyone playing together, being assignment sharp and flying to the football."
There was plenty of that on Saturday as the defense accounted for five sacks, eight tackles for a loss and two interceptions.
The lone touchdown came on the last play of the scrimmage as senior Braden Hanson (Charlotte, N.C.) found fullback Ethan Magstadt (Maple Grove, Minn.) on a seven-yard scoring strike. It was the only red-zone drive of the day for the offense as the white squad started from the 20-yard line.
"We'll get some more work done and hopefully solidify who is the No. 1 and No. 2 by the end of this week. We just need more consistent work, but for the most part I was pleased overall with the entire scrimmage on both sides."
The four UND quarterbacks shared 15 drives during the second scrimmage of the spring as Hanson led his unit on the longest drive of the day, resulting in a 33-yard field goal. Both Tanner Naastad (Grand Forks, N.D.) and Bobby Gutierrez made kicks from that distance.
Hanson was 5-for-6 on the drive for 75 yards as he connected with redshirt freshman Jameer Jackson (Brooklyn Park, Minn.) three times for 50 yards in the process.
Jackson showed his physical style of play by breaking several tackles on his first two catches to net 30 yards, then taking the ball down the six-yard line following a 20-yard completion on a quick slant.
"Jameer is such a big kid and he's tough to bring down. That is when you have to wrap up as a cornerback, hang on and hope for the troops to show up," Mussman said. "He made some plays out there where hwas dead to rights, but he broke some tackles and made a few first downs. That is what we are looking for - that big body out there. I have been very impressed with him."
Hanson finished the scrimmage 8-for-11 for 104 yards and the lone touchdown pass. Hanson directed six drives.
Junior Joey Bradley (Issaquah, Wash.) opened the scrimmage at quarterback leading the offense to a pair of first downs before throwing an interception hauled in by senior Erik Mersereau (Port Washington, Wis.). Bradley was trying to find Greg Hardin (Bellevue, Neb.) on a post route, but did not get enough air underneath the ball as Mersereau leaped to make the catch as he was dropping back into coverage.
Junior Jake Miller (Bismarck, N.D.) got the bulk of his work on that opening drive, toting the ball four times for 26 yards. He finished the scrimmage with nine carries and 30 yards on the ground.
Redshirt freshman Ryan Nelson (Farmington, Minn.) had the other interception as he dove to pick off an overthrown pass by sophomore Chris Comes (Danville, Calif.).
Senior Marcus Hendrickson (Perham, Minn.) engineered the only other scoring drive of the day on a drive that started at the 50-yard line. Naastad and Gutierrez once again both made kicks from 19 yards out. Redshirt freshman P.J. Sparks (Glendale, Ariz.) was the work horse on that drive, carrying the ball seven times for 26 yards.
Hendrickson was 2-for-2 on the drive with a 19-yard completion to redshirt freshman Pat Brown (North Pole, Alaska) and a nine-yarder to Taylor Grant (Eden Prairie, Minn.).
Thompson native Garrett Reineke had a nice day as the reserve linebacker finished with two sacks, a tackle for loss and two other stops. Junior Derrick Goard (Homewood, Ill.) and sophomore Joey Walker (Milpitas, Calif.) also had five tackles to pace the defense.
Redshirt freshman Kyle Woodsmall (Wildwood, Mo.) made several plays late in the scrimmage, including a tackle for a loss, a sack and a pass deflection at the line of scrimmage.
The Sioux have one more practice remaining at Memorial Stadium on Monday before moving to the Alerus Center for their final three sessions of the spring. Those will culminate with the annual Spring Game on April 21 at 3 p.m.