GRAND FORKS, N.D. - UND’s first Big Sky home game will come against a familiar opponent and fellow league newcomer Cal Poly. This will be the fourth straight season the Mustangs and UND have met on the gridiron, including the second straight at the Alerus Center.
• These two teams shared the 2011 Great West Conference title by posting 3-1 records in what was the final season of the league.
• In last season’s matchup, the Mustangs held off a late-charge led by senior quarterback Brent Goska to defeat UND 23-19. CP has won two straight in the series and the road win last season was the first by either team.
• CP improved to 3-0 with its win at UND and had the chance win the GWC title outright, but fell to rival UC Davis 24-17 on Nov. 5. That set up UND to earn a share of the title with a dramatic 38-37 win over South Dakota in what was the final Great West Conference Football game.
• UND won the initial meeting between the two clubs on neutral turf, knocking off the third-ranked Mustangs 38-21 in the 1972 Camillia Bowl played in Sacramento. The Green and White earned the West College Football Championship with its upset of CP.
• After defeating Cal Poly by 17 (38-21) in that ‘72 Camelia Bowl and 14 (31-17) in Great West play when the series resumed in 2009, the last two meetings on the gridiron have been much closer. Unfortunately for UND, the Mustangs have also evened the all-time series with a one-point victory (22-21) in San Luis Obispo in 2010 and last season’s four-point victory at the Alerus Center.
• That loss to the Mustangs was also the only one at the Alerus Center in six home games as UND has won seven of its last eight on its home turf, including a 2-0 mark in 2012.
• In the polls this week, North Dakota did not crack the Top 25 in either the The Sports Network/Fathead.com poll or FCS Coaches’ poll, but the team moved closer to doing so. UND received 48 points - up 34 points from last week - in the coaches’ poll (No. 28 overall) and 175 points - up 99 more points from last week - in the TSN/Fathead.com poll (No. 30 overall). In the latest Sagarin Rating, UND moved up six spots to No. 17 after its win at Sac State.
LIVE FROM GRAND FORKS
Fans wanting to follow all the action from Grand Forks in a matchup that pits the Big Sky’s top ranked defense in Cal Poly vs. the top ranked offense in North Dakota will have several ways to do just that.
Radio: UND Radio Network (96.1 FM - Grand Forks) - pregame show at 5 p.m. CT.
Audio: UND Radio Network broadcast also available at www.UNDSports.com
TV: Midco Sports Network (Channel 27, 623 HD)
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
Stats: Live stats will be available at www.UNDSports.com
Twitter: For live scoring updates and game notes follow @UNDFootball
QUITE THE DEBUT
The North Dakota football team went out to California’s capital city looking to make a statement last Saturday night and the team wearing all white uniforms did just that. UND defeated Sacramento State 35-13 in its Big Sky debut behind the powerful running of senior Mitch Sutton and a defense that forced three Hornet turnovers and stopped the Sac State offense on fourth down twice. The 22-point margin of victory was the highest-ever by a league team in its first Big Sky game dating back to the league’s inception in 1963. Sutton rushed for 162 yards and saved the first three-touchdown game of his career for a historic day on UND’s football timeline. Redshirt freshman Jameer Jackson also hauled in a pair of toucdown receptions to bring his season total to four - an amount that leads all FCS rookies.
HEY, I KNOW YOU
North Dakota is the not the only newcomer on the block in the Big Sky this season. The league added both UND and Southern Utah as all-sport playing members this past summer, while Cal Poly - today’s opponent - and UC Davis were added as football-playing only members. All four of those teams spent the last four seasons playing in the Great West. Southern Utah and Cal Poly also won their Big Sky debuts last Saturday. The Thunderbirds rallied from an 18-point deficit to defeat Portland State 49-42, while the Mustangs also rallied from a double-digit deficit to knock off UC Davis 28-20 on their home turf.
MAGIC CARPET RIDE
• UND is 64-12 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.
BEAUTY IN BALANCE
The North Dakota offense is the only one in the FCS currenty ranked in the top 25 in both passing offense (12th, 293.5/ypg) and rushing offense (21st, 210.3/ypg). The unit has combined those two efforts to rank third in the FCS in both scoring offense (46.8 ppg) and total offense (503.5 ypg). Behind the passing of fifth-year senior quarterbacks Marcus Hendrickson and Braden Hanson, the unit tops the FCS charts in passing efficiency (188.42). Hendrickson ranks second overall in that category as an individual after compiling a passer rating of 179.75. Hendrickson has thrown 14 touchdown passes and only two interceptions in 104 pass attempts.
The last time a ranked opponent came into the Alerus Center, North Dakota was not overly kind. The game was the regular-season finale in 2011 when No. 24/22 South Dakota came to Grand Forks looking for a share of the GWC title. Taking a 20-point lead into the fourth quarter, that all but looked secure for the Coyotes, but senior quarterback Brent Goska and company also had a share of the GWC title on the line with a victory. Goska would toss a trio of fourth-quarter touchdown passes to shock USD 38-37 and earn his team its first conference title at the Division I level. Cal Poly brings a 3-0 record and a newly-christened No. 23 ranking in both the The Sports Network/Fathead.com poll and FCS Coaches’ poll into today’s contest. The Mustangs are one of four Big Sky teams to knock off an FBS opponent (24-22 win at Wyoming; Sept. 8) and won its league debut last week by defeating UC Davis 28-20.
Former North Dakota great and Minnesota Viking standout Jim Kleinsasser will become the 98th football player in school history to be inducted into the UND Letterwinners Athletics Hall of Fame on Saturday prior to the kickoff with Cal Poly. Kleinsasser wrapped up his impressive career at UND in 1998 before being drafted by the Vikings in the second round of the 1999 NFL Draft. He retired in 2011 after 13 seasons with the Purple and Gold and still remains the highest-drafted player in UND history. He was inducted into the North Dakota Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.
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. Then, Shea Walker got his mits on another field goal at Sac State (Sept. 22) to push the season total to four. Walker deflected a 52-yard field goal attempt as time expired in the first half for his third career block.
Through four weeks of the 2012 season, UND is in second place on the FCS charts with those four 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. Bryant is also tied with UND with four early in the season.
CAMERON HONORED BY CFPA
Senior punter Brett Cameron became the third North Dakota football player to earn national recognition from College Football Performance Awards this season after the organization named him its National Punter of the Week. Cameron joined quarterback Marcus Hendrickson (Sept. 9 vs. Portland State) and wide receiver Greg Hardin (Sept. 9 vs. Portland State) in being named the top player at their respective positions in a given week. He averaged 47.4 yards per punt on five attempts, pinning three inside the 20-yard line and booting two of 50-plus yards.
FIRST HALF FRIGHT
The North Dakota football team is averaging 28.5 ppg in the opening halves of the first three games of the season. The offense has churned out 114 points and scored 15 of its 25 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).
OVER 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 over halfway there with 14 just four games into the season. His total of 14 ranks second in the FCS.
STILL RUN FIRST
Despite racking up nearly 1,200 yards through the air in the first four games, the UND offense has still attempted more runs (153) than passes (118) 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 four games. UND’s two fifth-year senior quarterbacks have thrown 16 scoring tosses, while the ground game has accounted for eight. Last season, junior Jake Miller led a ground unit that posted 19 rushing scores to only 12 scores by the UND signal callers.
HENDRICKSON, hardin make history
Senior Marcus Hendrickson threw for 434 yards in the 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.
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 four-game run to open 2012:
• Has 20 catches for 457 yards and shares the FCS lead with seven touchdowns.
• Leads the Big Sky with those seven receiving touchdowns, 457 receiving yards and 42 points scored.
• Hardin’s 115.5 receiving yards per game average is seventh among FCS wideouts and second in the Big Sky.
• 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.
• With 22 receiving yards at Sacramento State, moved into ninth on UND’s all-time receiving yardage charts with 1,742. He bumped his receiving coach -- Luke Schleusner -- from that list.
• All of Hardin’s 1,742 yards have come in the regular season, which puts him seventh on that list.
• The 100-yard receiving game against the Aztecs was the seventh of his career. He opened the season with three-consecutive 100-yard receiving games, markign the first time in his career he had achieved that.
• The three-touchdown contest against San Diego State 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 against the Aztecs 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.
• Hardin is also returning kicks this season and has 62 return yards on three kicks to bring his all-purpose yardage total to 528, which ranks third in the Big Sky. He is averaging 129.8 all-purpose yards per game.
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.
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.
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).
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.