Courtesy: Eric Classen,
Sophomore Jameer Jackson has 15 catches in his two games this season. UND will take on No. 11/10 Montana State at the Alerus Center on Saturday at 2:35 p.m.
Game Notes: Bobcats visit for Big Sky opener
Release: 09/24/2013
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GRAND FORKS, N.D. - The University of North Dakota football is coming off a bye week, but the level of competition does not get any easier as the team looks to even its record at 2-2 and open Big Sky play with win. No. 11/10 Montana State, who is the reigning Big Sky champions, will be the third consecutive top-25 opponent to visit the Alerus Center this season. Kickoff for MSU’s first visit to Grand Forks since 1983 is set for 2:35 p.m. CT.

• Montana State is making its first trip to Grand Forks since the 1983 season when the Green and White won 21-3 at Memorial Stadium.
• The Bobcats lead the all-time series 16-13-1, but UND owns a slight edge in meetings in Grand Forks at 7-6-1. A majority of the series was played between 1956-1983 when UND and MSU played each season except in 1970 and 1981.
• Last season was the first meeting between these teams since the 1983 contest MSU and UND and it marked the first matchup as conference foes as well. MSU won that contest 55-10 at Bobcat Stadium thanks to a three-touchdown, 160-yard rushing performance by junior running back Cody Kirk.
• MSU will be the third consecutive top-25 opponent for UND, which is one of only two (Mercer) teams in the FCS that will play its first four games at home this season. The Bobcats were ranked No. 4 in the country last season when the two teams met on Oct. 27.
• Sophomore Kenny Golladay had a season-high 84 yards receiving against Montana State in last year’s contest. This year, he enters the game with back-to-back 100-yard receiving games (8 for 117; SDSU, 7 for 106; Montana).

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Senior Greg Hardin started the season trailing former UND standout Weston Dressler by 489 yards for the all-time regular season receiving yardage record at UND. After three games with 17 catches for 416 yards, Hardin has shrunk that deficit to just 73 yards. The Bellevue, Neb. native is averaging 138.6 receiving yards per game, which ranks fourth in the FCS and first in the Big Sky. Hardin has added three touchdown receptions as well to bring his career total in that category to 29. Dressler holds that all-time record as well at 35.

Hardin had his second 200-yard receiving game of his career against South Dakota State on Sept. 7, finishing with seven catches for 207 yards and two touchdowns. With his Big Sky record 333-yard outing against Montana last season, Hardin owns two of the seven 200-yard receiving games in UND history. Hardin now has 11 100-yard receiving games in his career. Dressler owns the overall record for career receiving yardage as well at 3,382 yards. He added 463 yards in his Division II playoff appearances. Hardin is 536 yards off that pace and needs just 154 yards to reach the 3,000-yard plateau.

Hardin is not only making an impact catching the ball, but has become one of the top kick returners in the nation as well. He ranks third in the FCS and first in the Big Sky in all-purpose yardage (229.7 ypg) and is second in the league in kickoff return average (26.6).

Longtime UND sports information director Lee Bohnet had the press box at the Alerus Center named after him in a special ceremony held Saturday morning at the current home of UND football. Bohnet, who passed away in 1999 after a long illness, became the first sports information director (SID) in UND history after he was hired by athletic director Glenn “Red” Jarrett in 1953. A World War II veteran, Bohnet worked in the SID role for 35 years until his retirement in 1988. Known for his in-depth researching and undaunted loyalty to the Fighting Sioux, Bohnet is a member of the UND Athletics, College Sports Information Directors of America and North Central Conference Hall of Fames. He wrote the book “A Century of UND Sports”, which chronicled the history of the athletic department’s first 100 years of existence and found no greater joy than when UND defeated its fiercest rivals on the gridiron, court or ice. Bohnet was also the co-creator of the Potato Bowl USA game that has been annual affair for UND since 1966. He will have a plaque placed in the Alerus Center press box to celebrate his legacy as one of the best SIDs in the history of college athletics.

The Montana State game will be just the second Big Sky opener for UND, but the Green and White were victorious in its inaugural league game in 2012, winning at Sacramento State 35-13 on Sept. 22. The 22-point victory was the highest-ever by a league team in its first Big Sky game dating back to the league’s inception in  1963.

Montana State enters its Big Sky opener with a 2-2 record after falling to Stephen F. Austin 52-38 last Saturday. The then third-ranked Bobcats were in the back-and-forth affair until the Lumberjacks scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to pull off the upset.

The two losses match the 2012 season total for MSU, who went 11-2 and advanced to the FCS quarterfinals. The Bobcats shared the 2012 Big Sky title with Cal Poly and Eastern Washington as all three teams finished 7-1 in league play.

Sophomore Jake Bleskin has subbed for injured All-American Denarius McGhee behind center over the last two-plus games for the Bobcats. Bleskin is 49-for-80 for 641 yards, but has thrown as many interceptions as touchdowns (four) in relief of the reigning Big Sky Player of the Year. Bleskin did share a special moment in the loss to the Lumberjacks as he completed a pass to his big brother Tanner that made the elder Bleskin the all-time leading receiver in Montana State history. The senior has 2,268 receiving yards for his career and his 160 catches are the third most by a Bobcat.

Sophomore wide receiver Kenny Golladay posted career highs in both receptions (8) and receiving yards (117) in the 35-28 loss to No. 6/7 South Dakota State on Sept. 7 and went over the 100-yard plateau for the second-consecutive game in the loss to Montana (Sept. 14). Against the Grizzlies, Golladay had seven catches for 107 yards and another receiving touchdown. The back-to-back 100-yard receiving games were the first two of his career. He ranks fourth in the Big Sky averaging 6.7 catches per game and is eighth in yardage per game (93.7).

North Dakota is one of 12 FCS teams and the only Big Sky team to score each time it has entered  the opponent’s red zone. UND is 12-for-12 in those opportunities through three games and has scored touchdowns on 10 of those trips.

For the third straight game, redshirt freshman quarterbacks Ryan Bartels and Joe Mollberg shared reps behind center for UND. Mollberg earned his first start and played a majority of the game, finishing 25-for-43 for 281 yards. With 614 passing yards so far, Mollberg ranks fourth among FCS freshmen in that category. Bartels has thrown for 390 yards in his three contests, completing 23-of-36 passes. Both quarterbacks are completing 63 percent of their passes and have combined for six touchdowns passes. Bartels and Mollberg led UND to its most points of the Division I era in the 69-10 victory over Valpo in the season opener on Aug. 29.

• UND is 67-15 in 12 seasons at the Alerus Center, including a 10-0 mark in the Division II playoffs. UND has gone undefeated in the building during a season three times (2003, 2004 and 2006).
• Head coach Chris Mussman is 21-11 all-time at UND’s home facility and improved to 4-0 in season openers at the Alerus thanks to the 69-10 victory over Valparaiso last Thursday.
• In those 21 home wins under Mussman’s guidance, UND is averaging 39.4 ppg and the team is 18-1 at home when scoring 30 or more points. The only setback occurred last season when Northern Arizona defeated UND 45-38 on Oct. 13.

UND will play nine of its 11 games indoors during the 2013 season, including the first six contests. Five of those will be at the Alerus Center and UND will not play an away game until an Oct. 5 trip to Idaho State. The Bengals play their home games inside as well at Holt Arena. The only two outdoor games on the schedule are an Oct. 26 matchup at Portland State and the regular-season finale at UC Davis on Nov. 16.

Senior Greg Hardin and sophomore Kenny Golladay have the UND kickoff and punt return teams ranked near the top of the Big Sky standings through three games. Hardin is averaging 22.6 yards per kickoff return, which is second best in the league. He had a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown vs. Valparaiso. Golladay is averaging a league-best 16.8 yards per punt return and had a 64-yard touchdown also in the season opener.

After sitting out the opener vs. Valparaiso, sophomore Jameer Jackson has shown no signs of rust in his first two games back. Jackson equaled his career-high with nine catches against Montana (86 yards) and caught six passes for 60 yards and also added a 2-yard rushing touchdown in the South Dakota State game. Jackson’s rushing score came on the first carry of his collegiate career. Jackson was a Jerry Rice Award finalist in 2012 after finishing with a pair of 100-yard receiving games and two multiple-touchdown games.

Montana State will be the third straight top-25 opponent to visit the Alerus Center this season. The Bobcats, who enter this week No. 11 in the FCS Coaches’ poll and No. 10 in the Sports Network poll, won’t be the last either. After playing its first road game of the season next Saturday at Idaho State, current No. 2/2 Eastern Washington will pay a visit to the Alerus Center for UND’s annual homecoming game on Oct. 12.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the UND Athletics High Performance Center was held  on Thursday, Sept. 5  at the outdoor practice field, south of Memorial Stadium. The facility will serve as an indoor training facility and be available for each of UND’s 19 athletic teams and includes a 100-yard artificial turf field, a 300-meter, eight-lane track, spectator seating, a state-of-the-art academic center, a sports medicine facility and a weight room.

Senior running back Jake Miller moved into the top 10 for career regular season rushing touchdowns at UND after scoring three in the season-opening win vs. Valparaiso. Miller’s three touchdowns gave him 21 rushing scores for his career, tying him with Bill Deutsch in seventh place on UND’s all-time list. Miller, who only had two rushing scores a season ago, also posted his sixth 100-yard rushing game against the Crusaders, carrying 17 times for 108 yards. After netting 31 yards vs. Montana, Miller needs 148 rushing yards to reach the 2,000-yard plateau for his career.

The UND offense scored its most points since moving to the Division I era in the 69-10 season-opening victory over Valpo. It was also the most points scored by UND since defeating Morningside 69-0 in 1972.

• The 69 points were also the third most scored by a FCS team and most by a Big Sky team during the opening weekend.
• Senior wideout Greg Hardin’s 163 receiving yards were the fourth most among FCS receivers in the opening weekend and his 253 all-purpose yards were the second most.
• Hardin’s 90-yard kickoff return was one of four scored in the FCS.
• Sophomore wideout Kenny Golladay’s 64-yard punt return was one of five scored in the FCS. It was Golladay’s first career punt return.
• Redshirt freshman Ryan Bartels pass efficiency was 259.2, which was tops in the Big Sky and would have been tops in the FCS, but he fell short of the minimum requirement of 15 attempts (10-for-12).

Junior Adam Shaugabay earned the role as UND’s short-yardage back during fall camp and showed quickly in the opener that the coaches made a wise decision. Shaugabay only had five carries for 16 yards against the Crusaders, but three of those went for touchdowns. In 19 previous career games, Shaugabay had only found the end zone twice.

Head coach Chris Mussman has two new coordinators calling plays on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball in 2013. Long-time coordinators Greg Breitbach (offensive) and Mike Mannausua (defensive) left the program following the 2012 season. Breitbach is now the head coach at Millersville (Pa.) University - a Division II institution, while Mannausau took over as the Assistant A.D. and executive director of the Champions Club at UND. Their replacements weren’t hard to find, in fact both were just down the hallway as assistant head coach and linebackers coach Josh Kotelnicki was elevated to defensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Luke Schleusner takes over the reigns as offensive coordinator.

Kotelnicki and Schleusner are no strangers to the program as both were key contributors to the 2001 Division II national championship won by UND and both have been on Mussman’s coaching staff. Kotelnicki is entering his eighth season overall on the coaching staff, while Schleusner begins his third.  Safeties coach Benny Boyd will take over as the special teams coordinator – a post that Kotelnicki held since the 2008 season.

After landing on The Sports Network All-America Third Team last season (65 catches, 1,145 yards and 15 TDs), senior wide receiver Greg Hardin has garnered plenty of preseason accolades and deservedly so. Hardin was on five preseason All-America Teams (Beyond Sports Network, 1st Team; The Sports Network, 2nd Team, Phil Steele’s, 2nd Team WR and KR, USA College Football; 1st Team and College Sports Journal; 2nd Team). Hardin is also one of 41 FCS players on the Senior Bowl watch list for an invite to that prestigious event and College Football Performance Awards officials have him on their watch lists for wide receiver and kickoff returner of the year accolades. Classmate Zeb Miller was named to the CFPA’s watch list for the organization’s Placekicker of the Year Award and is on the Fred Mitchell watch list for a similar honor. He was also named a preseason All-American by Phil Steele’s (3rd Team) and College Sports Journal (Third Team).

Senior linebacker Garrison Goodman and senior wide receiver Blair Townsend were voted permanent team captains for the upcoming 2013 season. Goodman appeared in only seven games a season ago, but still ranked fourth on the team in tackles. Townsend had his most productive season to date, catching 27 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns.

Offensive lineman Dustin Adams made his UND debut against Montana in a reserve role on the offensive line. Adams, a Minot, N.D., native, transferred to UND from Northern Illinois after redshirting with a knee injury last season. 

Head coach Chris Mussman announced at the end of fall camp that senior wide receiver R.J. McGill will take his redshirt this season and have one season of eligibility left in 2014. McGill suffered a season-ending knee injury vs. Cal Poly in the fifth game of the 2012 campaign and had to have another minor procedue done to his knee in late August.

Three true freshmen made their collegiate debuts in the season-opening win over Valparaiso and four total have played in the first two games. Fullback Dustin Iverson played on a special teams and carried the ball twice for three yards. Defensive tackle Marcus Cheatom also saw action in a reserve role and had two tackle assists. Freshman punter Mitch Meindel made the box score, but for duties other than punting. Meindel only went back to punt once in the opener, but instead of punting, he took off running after an errant snap. Meindel gained a first down on the play after scampering for 17 yards. It was the second longest run from scrimmage for UND during the game. Freshman safety Cam Kuksa was suspended for the opener for a violation of team rules, but made a solo tackle in his first collegiate action vs. SDSU and added four in the loss to Montana.

In the last three seasons, only four UND players have played during their true freshman season: Jake Miller (RB; 2010), R.J McGill (WR; 2010), Jer Garman (RB; 2011) and Kenny Golladay (WR; 2012).

UND attempted 396 passes during the 2012 campaign, which is a mark only topped once in program history by the 1986 squad (433). The 1986 campaign was also the only other season in UND history where the offense attempted more passes than rushes before 2012. UND rushed 349 times during its inaugural Big Sky season, which was 47 fewer times than the quarterbacks put the ball in the air. So far in 2013, that trend has continued. UND has thrown 109 passes through three games, which averages out to 36.3 pass attempts per game. At that rate, UND quarterbacks would attempt 399 passes. The team has rushed the ball 98 times through three games.

After playing at least one game against a FBS opponent in each of the last four seasons, UND will take a one-year break from playing a team from the highest level of college football. The 2013 schedule worked out to where UND will have seven home games, including non-conference games against Valparaiso, South Dakota State and Montana. UND will resume playing FBS teams in 2014 and has at least one of those opponents scheduled through the 2018 season. Three of UND’s last five games against FBS foes have been decided by eight points or less, including a 49-41 loss at San Diego State in 2012.

2014: Sat., Aug. 30 at San Jose State (Mountain West)
2015: Sat., Sept. 5 at Wyoming (Mountain West)
2016: TBA vs. Bowling Green (MAC)
2017: Thur., Aug. 31 at Utah (Pac-12)
2018: Sat., Sept. 15 at Washington (Pac-12)

FCS teams are allowed to play 12 games this season, but UND and Northern Arizona are the only two in the Big Sky that opted to play 11. The remaining 11 league teams all have full schedules. Like UND, NAU is also playing a non-conference game against a Big Sky foe when the Lumberjacks play at UC Davis on Sept. 14.

With the elevations of Josh Kotelnicki to defensive coordinator and Luke Schleusner to offensive coordinator, head coach Chris Mussman had some openings to fill on his coaching staff. He filled those by hiring Mike Cunningham to coach the offensive line, former UND safety Joel Schwenzfeier to coach the running backs and Truman State graduate Jason Thier to coach the inside linebackers. Cunningham comes to UND after a seven-year stint with Mankato State where he coached the O-line and was also the running game coordinator since 2009. For Schwenzfeier, this is his first collegiate coaching job, while Thier arrived in Grand Forks after two seasons as the defensive coordinator at Montana Western (NAIA). Assistant Coach Kyle Myers was elevated to a full-time post as well prior to spring football and will coach the defensive line after coaching the outside linebackers in 2012.

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