GRAND FORKS, N.D. - North Dakota travels to Greeley, Colo., for the second consecutive season to face Northern Colorado in what will be the final game of the season for both squads. This time around, the contest will be of the conference variety as both are in the Big Sky.
• UND evened the all-time series at 12 wins a piece with its thrilling 27-25 victory over the Bears last season. It was the only non-conference game in the history of the series as the previous 23 meetings all came while both schools were members of the North Central Conference. Last year’s contest was the first meeting since 2003.
• Junior Zeb Miller knocked through a career-long 54-yard field goal with just under two minutes to play to give the visitors the two-point victory. Miller had missed his first two field goals of the season earlier in the quarter.
• It was just the fifth time in 14 tries that UND defeated its former North Central Conference rival in Greeley.
• The Bears, who went winless in 2011, are playing their best football of the season down the stretch, winning three of the last four games. The only loss during that stretch was a 12-10 setback (Oct. 27) to a Northern Arizona squad that was leading the Big Sky and undefeated at the time.
• Both teams enter the game with 3-4 records in Big Sky play and will look to conclude conference play with a .500 winning percentage.
• UND’s five losses this season have come to teams with a combined record of 41-10 (.804). The four teams that have defeated UND in Big Sky play are all currently tied for first in the league standings with 6-1 records going into the final weekend of play.
• Senior Ian McGurran will make his 44th consecutive start at center for UND on Saturday. The center and team captain has not missed a start during his entire career.
LIVE FROM GREELEY
Video: Big Sky TV (www.BigSkyTV.org - FREE webcast)
Radio: UND Radio Network (96.1 FM — Grand Forks) - pregame show at 1 p.m. CT
Audio: UND Radio Network broadcast also available at www.UNDSports.com
Chat: Football SID Ryan Powell will chat live at www.UNDSports.com
Stats: Live stats available at www.UNCBears.com
Twitter: For live scoring updates and game notes follow @UNDFootball
LAST TIME OUT
North Dakota emerged from a 15-point first-half deficit to rally for a 33-29 victory over Southern Utah in what was 16 seniors final home game at the Alerus Center. Senior running back Mitch Sutton scored a pair of rushing touchdowns in what would turn out to be in his final collegiate game. Sutton will miss the Northern Colorado contest after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury on UND’s final possession. Classmate Ethan Magstadt found the endzone for the first time in his career on a 3-yard reception from Braden Hanson in the third quarter. Sutton then provided the first lead of the game for the home team with a 5-yard touchdown run. After SUU regained the lead at 29-26, junior Jake Miller scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 36-yard run in the fourth quarter. Linebacker Dominique Bennett strip-sacked SUU quarterback Brad Sorensen on a potential game-winning touchdown drive deep in UND territory. Classmate Cordero Finely recovered, but the T-Birds would get one more chance. This time Sorensen’s Hail Mary attempt was batted away by senior Erik Mersereau to preserve the Senior Day win.
HISTORIC AERIAL ASSAULT
It was not the most prolific passing game of the season by a UND signal caller, but Braden Hanson’s 195-yard effort was enough to set the team record for single-season passing yards. Hanson and fellow fifth-year senior Marcus Hendrickson have combined for 2,886 yards through 10 games, breaking the old mark of 2,741 set in 2003. The duo has also established a single-season passing touchdown record with a total of 27 scoring strikes. Current running backs coach Danny Freund’s 2007 team threw for 26 scores. Freund holds the single-season record with 24 passing touchdowns that same season.
SUTTON CRACKS TOP 10, MILLER LURKING
With two rushing touchdowns in the 33-29 victory over Southern Utah, senior Mitch Sutton entered UND’s career top 10 in that category with 19. He is currently tied for 10th with Tom Biolo (1987-90). Sutton, who will miss his regular-season finale at Northern Colorado with a shoulder injury, concluded his UND career with 1,734 rushing yards and 593 receiving yards. Sutton’s stay in the top 10 may be brief as junior Jake Miller collected the 18th rushing score of his career in the victory over the T-Birds. Miller’s 36-yard run in the fourth quarter proved to be the game-winner.
The North Dakota offense is on pace to attempt more passes (348) than rushes (325) this season. If that holds, it would mark the first time in program history that it would happen. The offense has already compiled school single-season records for passing yardage (2,886) and passing touchdowns (27).
HARDIN HAS RECORDS IN SIGHT
Weston Dressler’s career receiving records of 34 touchdowns and 2,919 regular-season receiving yards are safe for at least one more offseason, but junior Greg Hardin certainly will make a run at them during his senior campaign. The speedy wideout has 25 receiving scores and 2,321 yards with one game left in his junior campaign.
However, a pair of records that may fall on Saturday at Northern Colorado are Dressler’s single-season touchdown reception mark of 14 and Ron Gustafson’s single-season yardage mark of 1,210 set in 1973. Hardin enters the finale with 13 receiving scores and 1,036 yards.
BRENNEMAN MOVES INTO SECOND ON UND CAREER SACK LIST
Senior Ross Brenneman has registered a sack in the last two games since returning from a knee injury that cost him a pair contests. With those two sacks, Brenneman moved into a tie for second on the UND career charts with 18.5 sacks in regular season play. Wes Atkinson is the regular-season record holder with 21.5 sacks (1996-99). He added two in the playoffs to up his overall record to 23.5.
HARDIN ERASES UND'S NAME FROM BIG SKY RECORD BOOKS
Junior Greg Hardin set a Big Sky single-game record with 333 receiving yards in the 40-34 victory over Montana on Oct. 20 and in the process erased UND’s name from the record book. Northern Colorado’s Patrick Walker was the previous record holder after he racked up 315 yards against UND last season in what turned out to a 27-25 victory for the visitors at Nottingham Field. Walker won’t pose a threat for UND this time around as the speedster was a senior in 2011.
RED ZONE SUCCESS
The North Dakota football team has ventured into its opponents red zone 38 times this season and has come away with a touchdown on 27 of those occasions. The offense is scoring 92.1 percent of the time (also has eight field goals), which is the second best mark in the Big Sky and 10th best in the FCS. The unit has come up without points only three times.
HEAVE IT TO HARDIN
Junior Greg Hardin became just the third receiver in UND history to eclipse the 2,000-yard receiving mark in regular season play vs. Montana and the sixth to surpass the 1,000-yard single season mark vs. Southern Utah (Nov. 3). It has been a memorable season for the 5-foot-11 wideout from Bellevue, Neb.
Here is a look at his 2012 season:
• Has 57 catches for 1,036 yards and ranks first in the Big Sky and is tied for third in the FCS with 13 receiving touchdowns.
• Has four multiple-touchdown games on the season, including a trio of three-touchdown games.
• The 333-yard effort against Montana was the eighth 100-yard receiving game of his career and fourth of the season.
• His 1,036 yards are the second most by a Big Sky receiver and eighth most in the FCS.
• Registered a then career-high 190-yard receiving game vs. Portland State (Sept. 8) and scored three touchdowns to earn the CFPA National Wide Receiver of the Week award.
• Opened the season with three-consecutive 100-yard receiving games, marking the first time in his career he had achieved that.
• His 27-yard circus catch in the second quarter of the Portland State contest was the No. 2 ‘Play of the Day’ on ESPN’s Sportscenter. Hardin climbed over a six-foot-four PSU defensive back to make that grab, which was voted the No. 2 play on Sports Center’s Top Plays of the Day.
JACKSON ADDED TO JERRY RICE AND CFPA WATCH LISTS
Redshirt freshman Jameer Jackson has been added to a pair of watch lists that honor the National Freshman of the Year in the Football Championship Subdivision. Two weeks ago, Jackson was among a trio of freshmen named to the Jerry Rice Award Watch List, then this past week he was among the initial watch list released for the College Football Performance Awards Natioanl Freshman of the Year. Jackson has 43 for 587 yards and six receiving touchdowns in 2012 - all three of those totals rank second among freshmen in the FCS.
JACKSON AMONG BEST ROOKIES IN FCS
Redshirt freshman Jameer Jackson has emerged as one of the top rookie wideouts in the FCS this season. He has a pair of 100-yard receiving games and two multiple-touchdown games to his credit so far in 2012. Here is where he ranks among his fellow freshmen nationally:
68 Sean Hill, Appalachian State
50 D.J. Ward, Stephen F. Austin
48 Jameer Jackson, North Dakota
41 Luke Hagy, Cornell
1,029 Sean Hill, Appalachian State
664 D.J. Ward, Stephen F. Austin
632 Jameer Jackson, North Dakota
8 Sean Hill, Appalachian State
6 Jameer Jackson, North Dakota
Junior Greg Hardin already has a CFPA National Performer of the Week Award, two National Receiver of the Week Awards and now has a National Kick Returner of the Week Award. The latest honor came after Hardin ran back a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown to jumpstart UND’s comeback win over Southern Utah. Hardin’s memorable return came with his team trailing the Thunderbirds 15-0 just over five minutes into the second quarter. He was also named the ROOT SPORTS Big Sky Co-Special Teams Player of the Week for his efforts.
CAMERON SAVING BEST FOR LAST
Senior Brett Cameron averaged 47.3 yards per punt against Southern Utah and was recognized as an honorable mention National Punter of the Week by College Football Performance Awards for the third time this season. Cameron is averaging 42.3 yards per punt on 49 boots this season, which is the fifth-highest average ever by a UND punter. His career mark of 40.4 ypp is fourth on the UND charts. He has landed 12 punts inside the 20-yard line this season and boomed 11 of the 50-plus yard variety.
Seniors Ian McGurran and Ross Brenneman will serve as the permanent team captains for the 2012 season. Both players were voted captains of the 2011 squad at the conclusion of the season as well. What made the designation even more special for McGurran is that his father, John, also served as a football captain on the 1982 UND team. The McGurrans become just the second father-son tandem to serve as UND captains after Glenn “Red” Jarrett and his son, James, were both captains as well. The elder Jarrett was a captain on the 1930 team, while James served as a captain for the 1959 team. McGurran is the only player on the 2012 roster to have started all 34 games since the start of the 2009 season. Brenneman has started 32 of 34 games.
MAGIC CARPET RIDE
• UND is 66-14 in 11 seasons at the Alerus Center, including a 10-0 mark in the DII playoffs.
• Head coach Chris Mussman is 20-7 all-time at UND’s home facility and improved to 3-0 in season openers at the Alerus thanks to the 66-0 victory over SD Mines on Aug. 30.
• In those 20 home wins under Mussman’s guidance, UND is averaging 32.3 ppg and the team is 18-2 at home when scoring 20 or more.
THAT'S OUR SPECIALTY
North Dakota’s special teams unit blocked three kicks against Portland State on Sept. 8 to pick up where it left off from last season after leading the FCS with 10 blocked kicks. Since moving up to the Division I level in 2008, the UND special teams have a total of 33 blocks. The unit added two more blocks in the loss at Montana State.
Offensive lineman Shea Walker leads the team with three blocks in 2012 and now has five for his career, which is tops among his teammates. Walker blocked a 52-yard field goal at Sac State, deflected an extra point at Eastern Washington and got his forearm on a 37-yard attempt by Montana State.
NEXT OPPONENT: NORTHERN COLORADO
Second-year head coach Earnest Collins is starting to see the dividends from the hard work he has put in at his alma mater. After winning just one game in his first 17 tries, the Bears have reeled off two straight wins for the first time in his tenure and also won three of four.
NC has also put itself in position to finish the Big Sky Conference slate with a 4-4 record. The Bears will have to beat UND in order to accomplish that feat and their opponent will be gunning for the same objective on Saturday at Nottingham Field.
The Bears’ most recent victory was a 42-34 shootout win over Weber State. Junior Seth Lobato was named the ROOT SPORTS Big Sky Player of the Week for his exploits in the win over the Wildcats. Lobato threw for 418 yards and four touchdowns in the victory.
Lobato’s favorite target this season has been of the Big Sky’s most exciting players -- Dominic Gunn. Gunn shares the team lead with 46 catches and has turned those into a team-best 639 yards and six touchdowns. He also has 22 kickoff returns for 451 yards and a touchdown, while adding 23 punt returns for 392 yards and two touchdowns.
Gunn trails only UND’s Greg Hardin in all-purpose yardage among Big Sky players with 1,482 total yards. Hardin has 1,509.
The NC defense is led by linebacker Herve Tonye-Tonye, who has done an adequate job in place of preseason All-American candidate Clarence Bumpas. The latter played in only five games this season after ranking fourth in the FCS with 145 tackles last season.
Tonye-Tonye has a team-high 68 tackles and is followed closely by Jordan Bible, who has 62 stops. Bumpas is one of four defensive starters currently out for the Bears.
DID YOU KNOW?
These two teams played the rare back-to-back games in 1998 as the Bears dealt UND two of its three losses. NC won 14-9 in Grand Forks on Nov. 14 in the regular-season finale, then hosted the Fighting Sioux in the first round of the Division II playoffs the next week. There was a lot more offense in that contest as NC secured a 52-24 victory to advance to the second round.
This will be the third time UND has played Northern Colorado in its regular-season finale. The Bears won both of those games in 1997 (34-7) and 1998 (14-9).
HISTORY OF THE SERIES
The series began in 1980 with NC posting a 27-22 victory over UND in Greeley. The Fighting Sioux returned the favor the next season with a 6-0 victory in Grand Forks. To date, that 1981 shutout is the only one in the 24-game series.
Senior Brent Goska orchestrated a fourth-quarter comeback in last year’s wild 27-25 victory for UND. The victory was the first of four straight Goska-led wins by UND to close out the season and finish with an 8-3 record and share of the Great West title.
The win over the Bears also evened the all-time series at 12 wins a piece for the former North Central Conference rivals. Northern Colorado will play in Grand Forks next season for the first time since 2001.
Both teams have scored 52 points in a victory during the series. The Bears defeated UND 52-24 in the only playoff meeting between the two teams in 1998, while the Green and White defeated NC 52-40 during the 1988 season in Grand Forks.