GRAND FORKS, N.D. - North Dakota will not play its first official Big Sky Conference game until Sept. 22 in Sacramento, Calif., but the squad will get a taste of league play on Saturday when Portland State pays a visit to the Alerus Center. This one only counts as a non-conference game, but the next time these two squads meet on the gridiron in 2013 (in Portland; October 19th), it will matter in the league standings. Big Sky foes Northern Colorado and Sacramento State will also play in a non-conference game next Saturday.
TV: Midco Sports Network (Locally on channel 27 and 622 (HD))
Radio: UND Radio Network (Locally on 96.1 FM)
Live Stats: www.UNDSports.com
• UND and Portland State have not played since 1981 when the Vikings were also visitors for the Potato Bowl USA tilt in Grand Forks. UND won that contest 17-10 after dropping the only other meeting between the two teams a year before in Portland, 28-14.
• With a 53-19 victory over Black Hills State in last season’s Potato Bowl, UND improved to 34-11 all-time in the annual affair and has won nine straight since a 43-7 loss to Central Washington in 2002.
• It marked the second straight Potato Bowl that the UND offense churned out 50 or more points (55-14 win over Northeastern State in 2010) and seventh overall. The most points ever scored by UND in a Potato Bowl was 57 in 2001 (Minnesota, Crookston).
• Junior Jake Miller earned honorable mention accolades from College Football Performance Awards for their Running Back Performer of the Week after his efforts against SD Mines in the season opener. He was one of 10 FCS backs to garner HM honors after rushing for 178 yards (three shy of his career high) on only 12 carries (14.8 ypc).
LIVE FROM GRAND FORKS
• The UND-Portland State game will be broadcasted by Midco Sports Network as part of its five-year agreement reached with UND’s athletic department this past summer. Kickoff is slated for 6:05 p.m. as former UND radio play-by-play voice Dan Hammer will call the action. Former UND signal caller Tony Stein (1997-99) will serve as Hammer’s analyst and Danny Luetzen will be on the sidelines.
• The UND Radio Network will provide coverage of all 11 games during the 2012 season for its 12-station membership. Jack Michaels is back for his second season as the play-by-play voice, while Mike Berg will once again handle the analyst duties. Paul Ralston will be managing the sidelines for the radio broadcast team.
• Fans can also link to each live audio broadcast from the home of UND Athletics at UNDSports.com. Live stats will also be available for all home games on the site.
• Ten of UND’s 11 games (excluding Montana) will have a live video stream available to fans compliments of Big Sky TV. Fans can visit BigSkyTV.org or AmericaOneSports.com to create an account for free access to those contests. The games can also be streamed live this year on mobile and tablet devices.
MAGIC CARPET RIDE
• UND is 62-12 in 11 seasons at the Alerus Center, including a 12-0 mark in the Division II playoffs.
• Head coach Chris Mussman is 17-6 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 South Dakota School of Mines on Aug. 30.
• In those 17 home wins under Mussman’s guidance, UND is averaging 37.8 ppg and the team is 15-2 when scoring 20 or more points.
DOWN RIGHT OFFENSIVE
• The North Dakota offense churned out a school record 653 yards of total offense last Thursday in the team’s 66-0 season-opening win over South Dakota School of Mines. It was the most lopsided victory in program history since a 69-0 victory in 1972 over Morningside in North Central Conference play.
• Only Old Dominion, who totalled 723 yards in a 57-23 victory over Duquesne, had more yardage at the FCS level in week one.
• Four different running backs churned out 370 yards on the ground, which was the fifth most by a FCS team in the opening week. Junior Jake Miller led the quartet with a 178-yard effort on only 12 carries. He averaged 14.8 yards per tote, which was second among FCS running backs with double-digit carries (Indiana State’s Ezayi Youyoute, 14.9/c; 11 for 164).
• Redshirt freshman P.J. Sparks rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown in his collegiate debut. He reeled off the longest play from scrimmage for UND with a 45-yard scamper in the fourth quarter.
• Eight players accounted for the nine touchdowns scored by UND with senior running back Mitch Sutton being the only one to score twice.
• The 66 points were the most in the Division I era by a UND team.
DOWN RIGHT DEFENSIVE
• While the offense was putting up points at an alarming rate, the UND defense was doing exactly the opposite. For the second straight season, an opponent left the Alerus Center after their season opener with a goose egg in the scoring column. It marked the 41st time in program history that UND posted a shutout in a season opener.
• The 142 total yards and 24 rushing yards allowed were both the sixth fewest by a FCS team during the opening week, while the shutout was one of six posted by a FCS team.
• The senior quarterbacking duo of Braden Hanson and Marcus Hendrickson combined to put up the most efficient passing game in UND football history in the season opener versus South Dakota School of Mines. The duet went 18-for-20 for 283 yards and four touchdowns to post a combined passer rating of 274.86.
• Hanson started things off by connecting on 13 of his 14 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns. His only incompletion was on a throw away to avoid a sack. Hanson’s passer rating of 252.80 was the best single-game effort at the FCS level in week one.
• Hendrickson relieved Hanson midway through the second quarter and also only missed on one his passes (six attempts) in the contest. He finished with 95 yards, including a 44-yard scoring strike to Greg Hardin that was the first of his career. He added an 11-yard scoring toss to Blair Townsend to cap a 31-point second quarter.
QUINTET CENTURY CLUB
• Juniors Jake Miller and Greg Hardin both broke the 100-yard plateau in their specialty categories on Thursday for the fifth time in their respective careers.
• For Miller, his 178-yard rushing effort was his fifth 100-yard rushing game, while his 36-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was the 17th ground score of his career (18 total).
• Miller earned honorable mention accolades from College Football Performance Awards for their Running Back Performer of the Week honor. Only three FCS running backs had a higher-rushing total than Miller did in week one.
• Hardin made the most of his three catches as he finished the night with 103 receiving yards to post his fifth 100-yard receiving game of his career. His first two passes were 43 and 44 yards, respectively, before finishing the night with a 16-yard reception. The 44-yarder was also the 13th receiving touchdown (14 total) of his career.
HENDRICKSON TO NET FIRST START AT QUARTERBACK
For the second straight week, a fifth-year senior quarterback will get his first career start under center for the North Dakota football team. Marcus Hendrickson will get his turn this week after it was announced Braden Hanson could miss 2-3 weeks after suffering a leg injury in the season opener. Hendrickson performed well in a reserve role against the Hardrockers, completing 5-of-6 passes for 95 yards and his first two collegiate touchdown passes. Hendrickson has started one game in his career - that came as a wide receiver at Idaho in 2010. He did not see any action at quarterback in 2011, but did play at the position in the fial two games of the 2010 season vs. UC Davis and at Montana.
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.
FIRST TIME STARTERS
There were several veterans of the starting lineup on both sides of the ball in the season opener versus South Dakota School of Mines, but there were also a handful of first-time starters on those units. On offense, senior quarterback Braden Hanson, left guard Brandon Anderson and wide receiver Jameer Jackson all made their first career starts. While, defensively, middle linebackers Ben Peters and Brian Otto and safeties Baylee Carr and Will Lewis all made their first career starts.
NEW FACES, OLD PLACES
UND will be in a new league this season and with that usually comes new opponents, but the Green and White have actually played eight of the nine Big Sky teams on its docket. The only new opponent in that bunch is Eastern Washington - the 2010 FCS National Champion. There are two more new opponents on the schedule, but SD Mines and San Diego State are both non-conference tilts. Portland State, who is a Big Sky member, is the other non-conference game, but UND has played the Vikings twice before. Montana and Montana State are old North Central Conference rivalries that will be renewed with the membership in the BSC. UND has played Montana State 28 times and Montana 19 times before on the gridiron. The UND gridders will play those schools on back-to-back Saturdays in October this season.
COACHING STAFF SHUFFLE
Head coach Chris Mussman’s assistant coaching staff stayed in tact for the most part with only three new additions being added to the fold. Wes Nurse will coach the cornerbacks and joins the staff after one season in the same role at UC Davis. Jeff Richter, a former UND defensive lineman, will begin his first season in 2012 as the team’s tight ends coach. Kyle Myers, who was a volunteer assistant in 2010 returns in a paid capacity and will assist with the linebackers.
Mike Mannausau will have a new title to work with in 2012 as he was promoted to associate head coach and will be the sole defensive coordinator this season. Josh Kotelnicki was named assistant head coach during the summer and has added that title to his role as the linebackers coach and special teams coordinator. Luke Schleusner will coach the position he played at UND as he moves over from coaching the tight ends and fullbacks to directing the wide receivers.
Senior quarterbacks Braden Hanson and Marcus Hendrickson completed 18 passes in the season opener vs. South Dakota School of Mines. The impressive part of that number is the duo connected with 10 different receivers at least once during the contest. Junior R.J. McGill and redshirt freshman Jameer Jackson each paced the team with four receptions.
BIG TIME TURNAROUND
North Dakota made its final season in the Great West a memorable one as the team flipped its record from 2010, improving by five games to finish 8-3 overall and finish ranked in a national poll for the first time in its Division I history (No. 23; Sports Network/Fathead.com Poll). It was the third best turnaround in program history. Head coach Chris Mussman earned GWC Coach of the Year honors for his efforts and was also a finalist for the Liberty Mutual and Eddie Robinson FCS Coach of the Year Awards.
BIG TIME TURNAROUND - ROAD TRIP STYLE
UND went winless on the road in 2010, dropping all five games away from the Alerus Center. However, in 2011, the story was a little different away from home as UND went 3-2 with all three of those wins coming against current Big Sky members (Northern Colorado, Southern Utah and UC Davis).
No other team in the FCS had more blocked kicks during the 2011 regular season than North Dakota. The special teams unit blocked 10 kicks (six field goals and four extra points). Since moving up to Division I, UND has a total of 35 blocked kicks with at least seven or more in each of the last four seasons. Senior Devin Benjamin and junior Cordero Finley led the team with three blocked kicks a piece. Sophomore Shea Walker chipped in with two blocks.
UND captured its 25th football conference title in program history when it defeated South Dakota 38-37 to earn a share of the Great West crown in last year’s season finale. The league title was the team’s first at the Division I level after winning 24 North Central Conference titles at the Division II level.