GRAND FORKS - North Dakota will look to end a two-game losing skid and a two-game skid in Homecoming games on Saturday when No. 16 Northern Arizona pays its first visit to Grand Forks.
• UND and NAU have met twice before, but it has been 27 years since the Lumberjacks shutout out UND on their home turf 41-0 in 1985. The only other meeting was also a 39-10 NAU victory in Flagstaff in 1967.
• After opening Big Sky play with a 35-13 road victory at Sacramento State, UND has dropped two straight in league play to a pair of ranked opponents (Cal Poly and EWU).
• The Lumberjacks have reeled off four straight wins to match their win total from the 2011 season (4-7) and are 2-0 in Big Sky play.
• NAU will be the third straight ranked opponent for UND, which is now 3-5 against ranked foes since moving up to the FCS level in 2008. UND’s last win over a ranked opponent was the thrilling 38-37 victory over No. 24 South Dakota in 2011 season finale.
• The Lumberjacks will be the 21st different opponent for UND in what will be the team’s 94th Homecoming game on Saturday. The Green and White are 61-28-4 all-time in those contests dating back to the first one, which was played in 1916 (20-0 victory over South Dakota).
• UND has only lost three straight Homecoming games once before in program history (1968-70). The team is 7-4 in Homecoming tilts since moving into the Alerus Center.
HOMECOMINGS IN THE ALERUS CENTER
2001 Nebraska-Omaha (L, 27-24 (ot))
2002 St. Cloud State (L, 20-17)
2003 Augustana (W, 13-3)
2004 Minnesota-Duluth (W, 26-0)
2005 St. Cloud State (W, 37-14)
2006 Minnesota State (W, 24-3)
2007 Augustana (W, 37-0)
2008 Western Washington (W, 42-32)
2009 South Dakota (W, 27-12)
2010 Southern Utah (L, 31-21)
2011 Cal Poly (L, 23-19)
LIVE FROM GRAND FORKS
Fans wanting to follow all the action from Saturday’s Homecoming tilt with Northern Arizona can do so in a variety of ways.
TV: Midco Sports Network (Channel 27; 622 HD) - pregame show at 2:45 p.m.
Radio: UND Radio Network (96.1 FM - Grand Forks) - pregame show at 2 p.m.
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
Stats: Live stats will be avail able at www.UNDSports.com
Twitter: For live scoring updates and game notes follow @UNDFootball
LAST TIME OUT
No. 7 Eastern Washington used a quick-strike offense and superb special teams play to deal UND a 55-17 loss on the Eagles’ red turf at Roos Field. The visitors jumped out to a 7-0 lead and were with in three points of the Eagles late in the first quarter before Shaquille Hill ran a kickoff back 99 yards for a touchdown to put his team up by double digits. UND would never get closer than that 10-point deficit the rest of the way.
Redshirt freshman Vernon Adams contributed four first-half scoring passes to help the home team build a 34-17 lead at the break. But, it was Adam’s final touchdown pass of the half that sent the momentum right back to the home team after UND had pulled to within 27-17 late in the first half on a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Braden Hanson. Hill returned the ensuing kickoff 42 yards to give his team a chance to get the touchdown right back and with 13 ticks remaining before the horn, Adams found Greg Herd from 25 yards out to push the lead back to 17. UND’s offense could not get anything going in the second half as the EWU defense pitched a shutout over the final 30 minutes. Adams and the offense tacked on 21 more points to make the final score 55-17.
MAGIC CARPET RIDE
• UND is 64-13 in 11 seasons at the Alerus Center, including a 10-0 mark in the DII playoffs.
• Head coach Chris Mussman is 18-6 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 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.
FIRST HALF FRIGHT
The North Dakota football team is averaging 23.0 ppg in the opening halves of the first six games of the season. The offense has churned out 138 points and scored 18 of its 29 touchdowns in the opening 30 minutes of those games. Last season, UND scored a total of 161 first-half points (14.6/g).
JAMEER CATCHING ON
Redshirt freshman Jameer Jackson caught a career-high nine passes for 74 yards in the loss at Eastern Washington. The nine catches were the most by a UND player in a game this season. Jackson is emerging as one of the top rookie wideouts in the FCS this season. Here is where he ranks among his fellow freshmen nationally:
29 Sean Hill, Appalachian State
27 Jameer Jackson, North Dakota
24 D.J. Ward, Stephen F. Austin
24 Spearmon Robinson, Western Carolina
398 Sean Hill, Appalachian State
398 D.J. Ward, Stephen F. Austin
348 Jameer Jackson, North Dakota
328 Fred Plummer, Texas Southern
5 Sean Hill, Appalachian State
4 Jameer Jackson, North Dakota
BACK TO THE GROUND
After scoring 14 of its first 20 touchdowns through the air, the UND offense has gone to the ground for seven of its last nine scores. The last passing touchdown was a 20-yard catch by Jameer Jackson in the third quarter of the Sac State game (Sept. 22) - nine quarters ago.
Senior quarterback Braden Hanson saw his first action since breaking his leg in the season opener vs. SD Mines. The offensive game plan going into the game against Eastern Washington was to rotate both fifth-year senior signal callers and that is exactly what transpired. Hanson finished 16-of-22 for 141 yards through the air and added his first career rushing touchdown on a quarterback sneak in the second quarter. For the season, Hanson is now 29-for-36 for 329 yards and two touchdowns. He is completing 80.6 percent of his passes.
SUTTON SETS NEW STANDARD
Senior Mitch Sutton scored six rushing touchdowns and added one receiving score in 2009, but over the next two seasons, the rugged running back only found the end zone twice. His fortunes have changed in his final collegiate campaign as Sutton has already produced eight rushing touchdowns through six games. Sutton’s career-high rushing scores are the most by a Big Sky back so far this season and he leads all Big Sky players with 48 points scored. Sutton has scored at least one rushing touchdown in four straight games, which is the longest such streak of his career. He had a career-high three rushing scores in the Big Sky opener vs. Sac State.
MORE HOMECOMING HISTORY
The matchup with Northern Arizona on Saturday will mark the 94th Homecoming Game in UND football history. Here is a look at some interesting Homecoming tidbits:
• The first homecoming game was a 20-0 victory over South Dakota played in 1916.
• The only years since 1916 that a Homecoming Game was not played were 1918 (World War I), 1943 and 1944 (World War II).
• North Dakota State has been the most frequent Homecoming opponent, playing UND in the contest 24 times. UND is 14-8-2 in those games.
• The most points scored by UND in a Homecoming Game came during the 1988 contest at Memorial Stadium when the Green and White defeated Northern Colorado 52-40. The 92 combined points were also the most in a Homecoming Game.
• UND has shutout its Homecoming opponent 16 different times with the latest coming in 2007 when Augustana was blanked by the score of 37-0.
• The largest margin of victory by a UND team in a Homecoming Game was 47 points in 1922 (South Dakota; 47-0).
• The 2012 Homecoming Game will be the 12th one played in the Alerus Center since UND moved into the indoor arena in 2001.
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.
Since moving up to the Division I level in 2008, the UND special teams have a total of 31 blocks.
Offensive lineman Shea Walker has added two more blocks to UND’s 2012 total since the Portland State game. UND is now tied for fourth nationally with five. Walker blocked a 52-yard field goal at Sac State and deflected an extra point at Eastern Washington.
THIRD QUARTER LOCKDOWN
The UND defense has only yielded 21 points in the third quarter this season and 14 of them came in the third quarter of the 55-17 loss at No. 7 Eastern Washington. San Diego State had scored the only points on the unit in the third quarter with a touchdown in the Aztecs’ 49-41 victory over UND on Sept. 15. The Eagles were fortunate to get the first of those two touchdowns because it came on a rather fluky play and kind of defined the night for the visitors. Sophomore linebacker Ben Peters knocked the ball loose from EWU wide receiver Greg Herd, who was a running a reverse, but the fumble bounced right into the hands of fellow wideout Ashton Clark, who ran it in from 12 yards out for the score.
PETERS HONORED BY CFPA
Sophomore Ben Peters was named an honorable mention National Linebacker of the Week by College Football Performance Awards on Oct. 7. Peters collected a career-high eight tackles, registered half a sack and a tackle for a loss, plus forced a fumble at Eastern Washington this past Saturday. Peters is the 10th UND player to be honored by the organization this season.
STILL RUN FIRST
Despite racking up more than 1,600 yards through the air in the first six games, the UND offense has still attempted more runs (229) than passes (193) 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 six games. UND’s two fifth-year senior quarterbacks have thrown 16 scoring tosses, while the ground game has accounted for 12. Last season, junior Jake Miller led a ground unit that posted 19 rushing scores to only 12 scores by the UND signal callers.
Junior linebacker Dominique Bennett, junior safety Clordion Kennedy and senior defensive end Ross Brenneman shared team-high honors with seven tackles in the 35-17 setback to Cal Poly. For the defensive trio, the total number of stops were career highs for all three. Brenneman equaled his best outing (at Northern Illinois; 2010), while Bennett and Kennedy set new marks.
QUITE THE DEBUT
The North Dakota football team went out to California’s capital city looking to make a statement on Sept. 22 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.
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.
Former North Dakota great and Minnesota Viking standout Jim Kleinsasser became the 98th football player in school history to be inducted into the UND Letterwinners Athletics Hall of Fame to the kickoff with Cal Poly on Sept. 29. 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.
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 on Sept. 23. 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.
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.
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).
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 SIx-game run to open 2012:
• Has 28 catches for 527 yards and ranks in a tie for fourth in the FCS with seven touchdowns.
• Shares the Big Sky lead with those seven receiving touchdowns and ranks second in the league with those 527 receiving yards.
• Hardin’s 87.8 receiving yards per game average is 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 38 receiving yards vs. Cal Poly, moved into sixth on UND’s all-time receiving yardage charts. He now has 1,812. He bumped his receiving coach -- Luke Schleusner -- from that list earlier this season.
• All of Hardin’s 1,812 career 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, marking 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.
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 (Sept. 8). 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 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. Sophomore Shea Walker made his first career start at left guard vs. Cal Poly in place of the injured Emmett Lynch.
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 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.