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Junior R.J. McGill had a season-high five catches for 81 yards at San Diego State on Saturday.
Game Notes: Big Sky opener set for Sactown
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Updated: Tuesday 09/18/2012 13:04:11 (ET)
by UNDsports.com
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GRAND FORKS, N.D. - The North Dakota football team has played three games as a Big Sky member, but Saturday’s matchup with Sacramento State will be the first official conference game for the Green and White. 

THE BLITZ
• In their only previous matchup, UND and Sac State met exactly 33 years ago in 1979 as UND blanked the Hornets 31-0 in the team’s annual Potato Bowl USA game.
• The Big Sky is the third football league for the North Dakota football team during its 118-year history. North Dakota won 24 North Central Conference titles at the Division II level and earned a share of the Great West Conference title in 2011 - the team’s final season in that league.
• UND won its first NCC game played in 1922, defeating South Dakota 7-0 on the road (Oct. 14). The team lost its first Great West game played in 2008, falling 34-21 at UC Davis (Oct. 25).
• The Big Sky Conference has posted four wins against FBS opponents this season, including one by Sacramento State, who beat a Pac-12 opponent for the second straight season when the Hornets defeated Colorado 30-28 on Sept. 8. UND fell just short of posting the fifth such win on Saturday in a 49-41 loss at San Diego State.
• UND fell to 0-6 all-time vs. FBS opponents, however, the 41 points against the Aztecs were the most scored by UND in one of those contests and also the most by an FCS opponent against an FBS opponent so far in 2012.
• With those 41 points, UND has scored 152 points in its first three games (50.7/ppg), which is the most through that stretch in program history. The 1903 team held the previous mark after scoring 146.
• The four-game record is held by the 2005 team at 183 points. That squad was also the last until this year’s team to score at least 40 points in each of its first three games. That Dale Lennon-led squad actually scored 40-plus points in five straight to open the campaign.
• This will be the seventh trip to California for UND as a Division I team, but the first time the Green and White have played back-to-back games in the Golden State. UND is 1-5 in those contests, but five of those six contests have been decided by single digits. 
• In the latest Top 25 FCS polls, North Dakota received 14 points in the FCS Coaches Poll (32nd) and 76 points in The Sports Network/Fathead.com Poll (35th). Sacramento State also received votes in both polls (13; 33rd in FCS Coaches Poll and 154; 29th in TSN/Fathead). UND was ranked No. 23 in the latest Sagarin Rankings.

LIVE FROM SACRAMENTO
Fans wanting to follow all the action from Sacramento as North Dakota plays its first official Big Sky Conference game at Sacramento State on Saturday at 6:05 p.m. CT will have several ways to do just that.

Radio: UND Radio Network (96.1 FM - Grand Forks) - pregame show at 7 p.m. CT.
Audio: UND Radio Network broadcast also available at www.UNDSports.com
Video: Live streaming of the game is available compliments of Big Sky TV and can  
    be viewed at www.BigSkyTV.org or www.B2TV.org
Chat: Football SID Ryan Powell will host a live chat at www.UNDSports.com
Stats: Live stats will be available at www.HornetSports.com
Twitter: For live scoring updates and game notes follow @UNDFootball

HENDRICKSON, HARDIN MAKING HISTORY
Senior Marcus Hendrickson threw for 434 yards in Saturday’s 49-41 loss to San Diego State, which was the second highest single-game total in UND history.  He also became the first quarterback in school history to throw 10 total touchdown passes in back-to-back games. Three of his four touchdown passses went to junior Greg Hardin, who became the first player in school history to register back-to-back games with three touchdown receptions. Hardin now has 19 career receiving touchdowns in just 23 games, which is tied for the third most by a UND player in program history. Hardin equaled his career-high with eight catches and finished with his third straight and seventh career 100-yard receiving game (142 yards). He currently leads the FCS with seven receiving touchdowns and 42 points scored.

A week after netting the College Football Performance Awards National Quarterback and Wide Receiver of the Week, the duo were honorable mention honorees this week for those same awards following their efforts at San Diego State.

BACK IN SAC TOWN
It has been 40 years since North Dakota played a football game in California’s capital city of Sacramento, but what a special day it was for Jerry Olson’s 1972 squad. The site was Hughes Stadium and UND knocked off No. 3 Cal Poly 38-21 to win the Camellia Bowl and NCAA West College Football Championship. 

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. Junior Garrison Goodman blocked his first career kick in the opening quarter, rejecting a 41-yard field goal attempt by Nick Fernandez. Redshirt freshman Casey Young then blocked a punt in the final minute of the first half to set up his team’s fifth touchdown of the opening 30 minutes of play. Senior Ross Brenneman rounded out the kick-blocking trio by deflecting a 52-yard field goal attempt by Hernandez in the third quarter.

Through three weeks of the 2012 season, UND is in second place on the FCS charts with those three blocks. Howard moved to the top spot after blocking three kicks on Sept. 15, including a potential game-tying PAT in overtime that sealed its 37-36 win over Norfolk State.

FIRST HALF FRIGHT
The North Dakota football team is averaging 33.3 ppg in the opening halves of the first three games of the season. The offense has churned out 100 points and scored 13 of its 20 touchdowns in the opening 30 minutes of those games. Last season, UND scored a total of 161 first-half points (14.6/g). The second quarter has been the most explosive for UND early in the season, accounting for 58 points (seven touchdowns and three field goals). 

HALFWAY THERE
The regular season record for touchdown passes in a season is 24 set by current running backs coach Danny Freund in 2007. Senior Marcus Hendrickson is halfway there just three games into the season.

STILL RUN FIRST
Despite racking up over 1,000 yards through the air in the first three games, the UND offense has still attempted more runs (110) than passes (95) this season. That should come as little surprise for a program that has never attempted more passes than rushes in a season.  What is surprising is the passing touchdown to rushing touchdown ratio through the first three games. UND’s two fifth-year senior quarterbacks have thrown 14 scoring tosses, while the ground game has accounted for six. Last season, junior Jake Miller led a ground unit that posted 19 rushing scores to only 12 scores by the UND signal callers.

HEAVE IT TO HARDIN
Junior Greg Hardin moved into a tie for third place on the UND’s regular season charts for career touchdowns and into a tie for fourth on the overall all-time charts (playoffs included) following his second consecutive three-touchdown effort at San Diego State on Sept. 15. His trio of scores pushed his career total to 19. 

Here is a closer look at Hardin’s three-game run to open 2012:
• Has 17 catches for an FCS-leading 435 yards and seven touchdowns.
• Leads the FCS and Big Sky with seven receiving touchdowns and is tied for first in overall touchdowns (seven) and points (42).
• Hardin’s 145.0 receiving yards per game average is tied for fifth among FCS wideouts and leads the Big Sky. Only four Ivy League wideouts, who have played just one game each, stand ahead of him. 
• Posted a career-high 190-yard receiving game vs. Portland State (Sept. 8), which was the seventh highest single-game receiving total in UND history.
• One of only two FCS receivers (Erik Lora; Eastern Illinois) to record more than 100-yards of receiving in each of their teams’ first three games.
• With 142 receiving yards at San Diego State, increased his career receiving yardage total to 1,720, which puts him just two yards behind his current position coach, Luke Schleusner, for 10th on the all-time career charts.
• All of Hardin’s 1,720 yards have come in the regular season, which puts him in a tie for seventh on that list.
• The 100-yard receiving game against the Aztecs was the seventh of his career. His three straight 100-yard receiving games marks the first time in his career he has gone consecutive games with triple-digit receiving yardage totals.
• The three-touchdown contest was the third of Hardin’s career and second in a row. As a redshirt freshman, Hardin hauled in a trio of touchdown passes vs. Northwestern State. Hardin owns three of the eight three-touchdown receiving games in UND history.
• Hardin’s eight receptions also equalled his career-high set in 2011 at Northern Colorado (Oct. 29).
• Hardin made a 27-yard circus catch in the second quarter of the Portland State contest that led to one of five first-half touchdowns for his team. 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.

CALIFORNIA CONNECTION
The North Dakota roster has eight players on it listed from the Golden State. Only Minnesota (29), North Dakota (18) and Wisconsin (12) have more representation. Five of those Californians prepped within 100 miles of Sacramento. Wide receiver/kick returner Romon Bridges grew up the closest to the state’s capital in Stockton, which is just over 50 miles away. Defensive backs Will Lewis and Javen Butler grew up in Pittsburg, which is only 60 miles away. The same goes for junior safety Clordion Kennedy, who is from Antioch. Those two cities are only separated by five miles. Junior linebacker, who was the first Division I recruit from the state, prepped in San Ramon, Calif. (80 miles away).

MAGIC CARPET RIDE
• UND is 63-12 in 11 seasons at the Alerus Center, including a 10-0 mark in the DII playoffs. 
• Head coach Chris Mussman is 18-5 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 18 home wins under Mussman’s guidance, UND is averaging 32.0 ppg and the team is 16-1 at home when scoring 20 or more points.

HENDRICKSON, HARDIN IN THE NAT’L SPOTLIGHT (WEEK 2)
Senior quarterback Marcus Hendrickson and junior wide receiver Greg Hardin shared the national spotlight in the FCS ranks following their record-breaking efforts in a 45-37 victory over Portland State (Sept. 8). 

Hendrickson was named the National Performer of the Week and Quarterback of the Week by College Football Performance Awards. He was also named the ROOT SPORTS Big Sky Co-Offensive Player of the Week and The Sports Network Co-Offensive Player of the Week. He was also named a Natioanl All Star by The College Sporting News. In his first career start, the right-handed signal caller went 16-for-25 for 294 yards and tied the UND single-game record with six touchdown passes. Five of those came in the first half. He also led the team with 50 yards rushing.

Hardin was named the Wide Receiver Performer of the Week by College Football Performance Awards and also earned the NCAA.com Offensive Player of the Week accolade.Hardin equaled his career-highs in receiving touchdowns (three), while eclipsing his career-high with 190 receiving yards (six catches). 

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. 
 
PASSING FANCY
• The 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 fifth-year senior 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  of his passes (six attempts). 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.

FATHER-SON LINEAGE 
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 in 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. Three more players made their first career starts against Portland State as well. Junior Garrison Goodman got the nod at middle linebacker and was impressive with a career-high 12 tackles. Strong safety Erik Mersereau also started his first game, while, on offense, fifth-year senior Marcus Hendrickson finally got a turn behind center and flourished in his first career start. At San Diego State, two more UND players made their first career starts for the Green and White. On offense, wide receiver Kenny Golladay started in the four-wide receiver set, while on defense, Clordion Kennedy got the nod at free safety.

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. 
   
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).

SILVER TITLE
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. 

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