GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Making his first collegiate start for the injured Braden Hanson, fifth-year senior Marcus Hendrickson tied a school record with six touchdown passes and led North Dakota to a 45-37 non-conference win over Portland State. It was the 10th straight victory in the Potato Bowl USA game for UND, who improved to 2-0 on the young season.
Hendrickson, who also led UND with 50 yards rushing, completed 16 of 25 passes for 294 yards. Five of his six passing touchdowns came in the first half, including three to junior receiver Greg Hardin, who finished the night with six catches for 190 yards.
UND and Portland State (1-1) combined to rack up 916 yards of total offense, nearly 600 of which came in an opening half that saw UND take a 35-24 lead to the locker room.
PSU freshman quarterback Kieran McDonagh went 21-for-41 for 301 yards and three touchdowns, but threw a pair of costly second-half interceptions.
PSU's D.J. Adams led all players with 144 rushing yards on 16 caries, while receiver Justin Monahan had six catches for 156 yards and two scores.
UND junior middle linebacker Garrison Goodman had a career-high 12 tackles to lead all players.
The Green and White special teams came up big once again, blocking three PSU kicks.
The game started inauspiciously for Hendrickson and company as after PSU held the offense to a three-and-out, McDonagh connected with Monahan on a 65-yard touchdown play on the visitors' first offensive play.
Hendrickson and Hardin had an answer though as that duo hit on a 66-yard touchdown on the first play of the ensuing drive. Hardin got great downfield blocking by McGill and Jackson on the quick screen pass and he was off to the races for his first score of the game.
A fumbled punt return by senior Erik Mersereau would leave PSU in great field position, but Goodman and company held the Vikings to a field goal attempt that the San Ramon, Calif., native would promptly block to swing momentum back to the home team in what was turning into a wild first quarter.
The action would slow down as the defense settled in to force some punts before Nick Fernandez put PSU back in the lead with a 44-yard field goal.
Fortunately, it would not take long for the Hendrickson-Hardin combo to strike again for the home team. This time the connection came from 26 yards out and made it a 14-9 contest in favor of UND. The lead was shortlived, however, as McDonagh once again found Monahan on a deep passing score in the opening minute of the second quarter to put the Vikings back in the lead at 16-14.
Hendrickson and UND would build its lead to 28-16 with a pair of unanswered touchdowns as he found Seth Nichols from one-yard out before connecting with Hardin on a perfectly thrown 49-yard bomb with six minutes, 45 seconds to play in the half.
Adams would reel off a 38-yard touchdown run to pull PSU within four points with just over two minutes in the half. After the PSU defense forced a three-and-out, the UND defense responded with its own three-and-out with 45 seconds play.
Redshirt freshman Casey Young then came up with one of the bigger plays of the game as he blocked a punt by Thomas Duyndam that was recovered by Blair Townsend on the PSU seven-yard line. Hendrickson found McGill two plays later from five yards out to give UND an 11-point lead at the break.
The second half was not nearly as action-packed as the first, but it was just as nerve wracking down the stretch. UND scored the only 10 points of the third quarter to pull ahead by 21 points - its largest lead of the game - but PSU would stage a late rally to make things interesting down the stretch. Junior linebackers Dominique Bennett and Cordero Finley both came up with interceptions in that stanza to help keep PSU off the scoreboard.
Fernandez hit two fourth-quarter field goals and a 25-yard touchdown pass from McDonagh to Alex Toureen put the visitors within a touchdown and a two-point conversion with two minutes, 28 seconds left on the clock.
PSU head coach Nigel Burton opted to kick the ball deep with two timeouts left, but Hendrickson used his legs on a third-and-four to gain the five yards he needed and seal the win for UND.
The Green and White will travel to San Diego State next Saturday for a contest against the Aztecs of the Mountain West Conference. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. CT.
Game Notes: Seniors Tanner Naastad, Devin Benjamin, Ross Brenneman and Ian McGurran served as game captains ... The victory was the 10th straight for UND in the Potato Bowl USA game as they improved to 35-11 all-time in those contests ... It was the second time UND defeated the Vikings in the Potato Bowl (1981; 17-10) ... Hendrickson tied the school record with his six touchdown passes held by Corey Colehour (1966) and Kelby Klosterman (2001) ... Junior Greg Hardin had six catches for a career-high 190 yards receiving and three touchdowns ... The three-touchdown game was the second of his career ... Hardin's three scores also moved him into a tie for sixth in career receiving touchdowns, joining Mike Juhasz (1996-99) with 16 ... UND has thrown for 10 touchdown passes in the first two games - the team had 12 during the 2011 season ... Junior Garrison Goodman registered a career-high 12 tackles in his first career start ... Goodman also blocked a field goal in the second quarter, which was the first of his career ... UND blocked three kicks total (one punt and two field goals) ... UND's special teams unit led all of the FCS schools last season with 10 during the regular season ... Defensive end Jay Nelson also had a career-high with seven tackles, including his first sack of the season ... The defense also had nine pass breakups ... Senior defense end Ross Brenneman led that effort with a career-high three ... Brenneman also deflected a field goal for his first career blocked kick.