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Think Big: First scrimmage report
Courtesy: Ryan Powell, UND Media Relations
Release: 04/07/2012
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GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Head coach Chris Mussman left his Fighting Sioux football team with a couple of thoughts before they got started on about a 48-hour break for the Easter Holiday. The first was there is no reason this team cannot win the Big Sky Championship in 2012 and they have a chance to be a pretty good football team if they continue working like they did during the first scrimmage of spring practices on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

"I liked the give-and-take. I liked the tempo of this team right now," Mussman said. "Our guys are playing hard and I thought we got better as a football team today."

The 60-play scrimmage started around 10:30 in the morning as nearly 100 Fighting Sioux fans were in attendance to catch a glimpse of a team that takes the momentum of Great West Conference Championship into Big Sky play in 2012.

All four quarterbacks shared what ended up being 12 drives on a blustery day on the UND practice field. The lone touchdown by the offense came on the final drive of the day when rising sophomore Jer Garman (Marion, Iowa) scored on a rush from two yards out.

It was one of three drives where the offense started on the 20-yard line to simulation red zone situations. Senior Seth Nichols (McVille, N.D.) set up the scoring play with an 18-yard reception. Redshirt freshman B.J. Fafita (Lawndale, Calif.) made back-to-back tackles on Garman before he finally found paydirt on his third attempt. 

Bradley, who took the first snaps of the day with No. 1 offense, finished the day 6-for-9 for 75 yards and an interception.

"There were a couple of nice throws early," Mussman said. "Joey Bradley early was pretty well on. Braden (Hanson) made a couple of nice throws too. He had a one really nice one on a comeback on the sidelines that was dropped, but those things happen."

Hanson was in on only 11 snaps, completing just 2-of-5 passes for four yards.

Sophomore Chris Comes (Danville, Calif.) looked solid on his two drives, completing 4-of-6 passes for 44 yards. He engineered five first downs, which were the most by a signal caller in the scrimmage.

"It was nice to see Chris Comes make a few plays today," Mussman said. "He made a throw down in the red zone to get them to about the four-yard line."

The toss Mussman is talking about was hauled in by redshirt freshman T.J. Draeger (Fargo, N.D.). The drive stalled, however, and the field goal unit got its opportunity to kick into a driving wind for the first time.

Newcomer William James (Sollentuna, Sweden) blocked the first attempt by Tanner Naastad (Grand Forks, N.D.) from 36 yards out, but the senior came through with his next attempt.

"We put Zeb Miller on the couch today to see what the guys behind him could do," Mussman said. "We need to build some depth there and this was a chance for them to show us something."

Naastad also connected on a 32-yard attempt, while newcomer Bobby Guttierez (Gainesville, Texas) could not find the mark on three tries (37, 47, 32).

Nichols, junior R.J. McGill (Phoenix, Ariz.) and Jameer Jackson (Brookyln Park, Minn.) were the only three players with multiple catches. In fact, McGill caught the first two passes of the scrimmage from Bradley. The first went for five yards, then he hauled in the longest play of the scrimmage, taking a pass 28 yards for a first down.

Jackson caught two passes for 20 yards and broke two tackles on one of those receptions to pick a first down on a 3-and-13 play.

"That is why we recruited Jameer," Mussman said. "He is a big target and a physical kid. He's that guy we need as a backside receiver to match up against a corner in space. He's almost like a tight end playing wide receiver ... He's still a freshman and has a long way to go, but I like what I've seen out of Jameer."

Defensively, sophomore Joey Walker (Milpiteas, Calif.) had the lone turnover of the day, picking off a Bradley pass on third down. He also had two tackles for a loss to highlight a defensive effort that saw the men in green register four sacks and 10 TFLs overall.

"(Joey) made some nice plays, but he missed a couple of tackles too," Mussman said. "He has been in the program going on three years and it's good to see him start to make some play and work himself up the depth chart."

The entire linebacking corps had a good day. Redshirt freshman Will Ratelle (Edina, Minn.) was one of those backers that shared scrimmage-high tackling honors with four. He also forced a fumble on a hit on Adam Shaugabay (Warroad, Minn.), but the ball went out of bounds.

Shaugabay made up for his fumble with three plays of 10-plus yards in the scrimmage. He finished with four carries for 30 yards and added a 15-yard reception.

Junior Cordero Finley (Kenosha, Wis.) and Brian Otto (West Allis, Wis.) also had four tackles on the day. Finley added a sack as well.

"Cordero is having a great spring," Mussman said. "He is really giving us some issues on the offensive side, but there is a lot of give-and-take on both sides of the ball and that is good to see."

Redshirt freshman Rumeal Harris (Eden Prairie, Minn.) had two tackles and two pass breakups.

The team will return to Memorial Stadium on Monday to make up the practice session missed this past Monday due to inclement weather. The session is scheduled to start at 1:45 p.m. 

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