GRAND FORKS, N.D. - The chill was still in the air at Memorial Stadium on Wednesday, but the howling winds were absent and that made for a "much better" practice, according to head coach Chris Mussman.
"I felt like we improved as a football team today," Mussman said. "We did not put the ball on the ground like we did on Monday and we worked through some situational things that I thought went well. Defensively, our energy and pursuit of the football were better."
The Fighting Sioux went through one more session in just helmets and practice jerseys before strapping on the full pads for the first time on Friday. One of the areas of emphasis in today's two-hour session was the two-minute drill.
The team spent the last two five-minute periods of the practice working on that.
"The two-minute drill is inevitably going to decide a lot of football games for us, so we are hoping to be able to execute that at a high level," offensive coordinator Greg Breitbach said. "We've put a big emphasis on that in spring ball and will get to work on it a couple more times before it's over."
There were several nice catches made during the drills, which Breitbach said was to get more of the "operation" of the two-minute drill engrained in his offensive players. Redshirt freshman Zach Adler (Omaha, Neb.) made one a nice, over-the-shoulder catch for a big gain and senior Jon Heimler (Colfax, Wis.) also made a diving snag during the drill.
The offense and defense also got more 11-on-11 work in with an emphasis on second-and-long situations. Mussman said the goal was to get half of that yardage back to set up manageable third down distances and he was pleased for the most part by the execution of his offense.
Junior Chris Hall (Jacksonville, Fla.) did come up with the lone turnover in 11-on-11 work, intercepting a pass on the sideline.
The team will return to the practice field on Friday for another 3:45 p.m practice. It will be the first time the Green and White don full pads, so the energy should be increased a notch as the team wraps up the first week of spring drills.
Season Tickets are available for UND's first season in the Big Sky, starting at $60 a seat. To reserve your seat today call 701-777-4582 or FightingSioux.com/tickets.
Practice Notes: Rising senior Emmett Lynch (Lester Prairie, Minn.) is not participating in the team work portion of spring practices, but the offensive guard is an active participant in individual work and was seen running some stadium stairs during 11-on-11 work ... Lynch missed the final five games of the 2011 season ... The special teams spent about 10 minutes working on the intricacy of punt blocking ... UND led the FCS in total blocks last season with 10, but none were of opposing punts ... Tight end Taylor Grant (Eden Prairie, Minn.) made two impressive catches during Wednesday's workout ... Newcomer Braden Hanson (Charlotte, N.C.) completed one of those passes to Grant on 30-yard strike and ran all the way down the field to congratulate the sophomore after he hauled in the lefthander's pass.