Grand Forks, N.D. - For the second consecutive season, the North Dakota football team will get to play a Big Sky Conference team as part of their tune-up for league play. That will take place on Saturday at the Alerus Center as No. 11/15 Montana visits for a 6:05 p.m. kickoff.
UND defeated Big Sky foe Portland state 45-37 in a non-conference game in 2012, but will face a resurgent Griz team that will be seeking revenge for a 40-34 setback handed to them by the Green and White last October in the same building.
• UND’s remaining nine games will all be against Big Sky Conference foes, but this Saturday’s matchup against league foe Montana will be counted as a non-conference contest. This tilt concludes a home-and-home series between the two programs that pre-dated UND’s arrival in the Big Sky.
• Montana took the front end of the home-and-home series with a 27-17 victory in 2010 at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
• This game will be the second of a three-year stretch where the Griz will play at the Alerus Center each of those seasons. UND won a 40-34 thriller last season in what was the first meeting between the two programs as conference foes.
• In last year’s wild victory over Montana, UND set a school record with 704 total yards, while quarterback Braden Hanson and wide receiver Greg Hardin both set Big Sky and UND single-game records as well. Hanson threw for 660 yards, while Hardin caught a career-high 12 passes for 333 yards.
• After its late rally fell just short against No. 6/7 South Dakota State, some national voters took notice in the Sports Network poll, casting 24 votes for UND.
• The Griz, who are No. 11 in the Sports Network poll and No. 15 in the FCS coaches’ poll, are the second straight ranked opponent to visit the Alerus Center. UM knocked off No. 6 Appalachian State in its season opener on Aug. 31 before having last Saturday off.
• UND opens the season with four straight home games; the last time that happened was in 1955. Mercer is the only other FCS school that opens with its first four games at home.
LIVE FROM GRAND FORKS
TV: Midco Sports Network (Channel 27, 622), Fox College Sports, Max Media (Montana)
Video: Watch Big Sky (www.WatchBigSky.com - FREE webcast)
Radio: UND Radio Network (96.1 FM — Grand Forks) - pregame show at 6 p.m. CT
Audio: UND Radio Network broadcast also available at www.UNDSports.com
Chat: Chat live at www.UNDSports.com
Stats: Live stats available at www.UNDSports.com
Twitter: For live scoring updates and game notes follow @UNDFootball
RECORD REWIND: WHAT A GAME
In one of the most thrilling games of the FCS regular season and certainly for UND in its first season in the Big Sky, the Green and White used some last-minute dramatics to edge Montana 40-34 at the Alerus Center on Oct. 20. Wide receiver Greg Hardin caught a 32-yard touchdown pass with 12 seconds left to provide the winning touchdown. Those 32 yards also broke the Big Sky record for single-game receiving yards as Hardin finished with 333 yards and three touchdowns in the contest. He also caught a career-high 12 passes from senior Braden Hanson, who had a record-breaking day of his own. The left-hander finished 42-for-61 for 660 yards and five touchdowns in the triumph over the Grizzlies. The 42 completions were a UND record, while the 660 yards passing were also Big Sky and school records for a single game. Hanson and Hardin got off to a fast start as the home team jumped out to a 31-17 lead at halftime. Hanson had 410 yards passing in the opening 30 minutes, which would have been the third-highest single game total in UND history. Hardin already had UND’s single-game receiving record in tote with eight catches for 243 yards and a pair of scores at the break.
Senior Greg Hardin started the season trailing former UND standout Weston Dressler by 489 yards for the all-time regular season receiving yardage record at UND. After two monster games to open the campaign, Hardin has shrunk that deficit to just 119 yards. The Bellevue, Neb. native leads the FCS through two games with 370 receiving yards on 12 catches. His 185.0 ypg average is also tops in the FCS. Hardin has added three touchdown receptions as well to bring his career total in that category to 29. Dressler holds that all-time record as well at 35.
Hardin had his second 200-yard receiving game of his career against South Dakota State, finishing with seven catches for 207 yards and two touchdowns. With his Big Sky record 333-yard outing against Montana last season, Hardin owns two of the seven 200-yard receiving games in UND history. Hardin now has 11 100-yard receiving games in his career.
Dressler owns the overall record for career receiving yardage as well at 3,382 yards. He added 463 yards in his Division II playoff appearances. Hardin is 582 yards off that pace and needs just 200 yards to reach the 3,000-yard plateau.
Sophomore wide receiver Kenny Golladay posted career highs in both receptions (8) and receiving yards (117) in the 35-28 loss to No. 6/7 South Dakota State on Saturday. The 100-yard receiving game was the first of the Chicago native’s career. He also added a 17-yard touchdown reception and a 20-yard punt return. Golladay currently ranks fifth in the FCS in punt returns with a 21.0 ypr average. He ran back a punt 64 yards for a touchdown in the season-opening win over Valparaiso.
Redshirt freshman quarterbacks Ryan Bartels and Joe Mollberg have shown early in their careers the ability to lead the UND offense and do so effectively. Bartels has thrown for 390 yards and two touchdowns in the opening two games. Those 390 yards are the third most by a FCS freshman this season. Mollberg, who nearly completed a dramatic comeback last Saturday against No. 6 South Dakota State, is fourth among FCS rookies with 333 passing yards. The youthful duo has UND ranked fourth in scoring in the FCS at 49.5 ppg and eighth in total offense at 499.5 ypg. Bartels and Mollberg led UND to its most points of the Division I era in the 69-10 victory over Valpo in the season opener.
RED ZONE SUCCESS
North Dakota is one of 32 FCS teams to score each time it has entered the opponent’s red zone. UND is 10-for-10 in those opportunities through two games and has scored touchdowns on nine of those trips. Seven of those have come on the ground, which are tied for the most by any FCS team.
NEXT OPPONENT: MONTANA
Montana opened its 2013 season with a 30-6 upset of No. 6 Appalachian State in Missoula. Running backs Travon Van and Jordan Canada both scored a touchdown and eclipsed the 100-yard mark in the contest. Van, a Marshall transfer, rushed 20 times for 118 yards, while Canada added 112 rushing yards on 25 carries.
The Griz, who were off last weekend, are trying to rebound from a rare losing season in 2012 that saw Montana post a 5-6 overall record and 3-5 mark in Big Sky play. It was the first losing season for the Griz since going 3-8 in 1985.
The return of junior quarterback Jordan Johnson should help that cause. Johnson threw for 2,400 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2011, but sat out last season for personal reasons. Johnson went 19-for-23 for 251 yards and two touchdowns in his return against the Mountaineers.
Defensively, the Griz have 10 starters back and allowed only 328 yards of total offense to Appalachian State. First team All-Big Sky performer Jordan Tripp leads that unit. He had seven tackles in the opener after racking up 95 during the 2012 season.
DID YOU KNOW?
• Redshirt freshman Kodee Varner is the lone Montana native on the UND roster. He hails from Baker, Mont., which is on the eastern border of the Treasure State.
• Despite neighboring the Peace Garden State, there is not a native of North Dakota on the Grizzlies’ roster.
• Montana owns a 11-8-1 advantage in the all-time series.
• The teams are even at 4-4-1 in nine previous games in Grand Forks.
• The four neutral site games in this series were played in Billlings, Mont.
MAGIC CARPET RIDE
• UND is 67-14 in 12 seasons at the Alerus Center, including a 10-0 mark in the Division II playoffs. UND has gone undefeated in the building during a season three times (2003, 2004 and 2006).
• Head coach Chris Mussman is 21-10 all-time at UND’s home facility and improved to 4-0 in season openers at the Alerus thanks to the 69-10 victory over Valparaiso last Thursday.
• In those 21 home wins under Mussman’s guidance, UND is averaging 39.4 ppg and the team is 18-1 at home when scoring 30 or more points. The only setback occurred last season when Northern Arizona defeated UND 45-38 on Oct. 13.
DOME SWEET DOME
The North Dakota football team will play nine of its 11 games indoors during the 2013 season, including the first six contests. Five of those will be at the Alerus Center and UND will not play an away game until an Oct. 5 trip to Idaho State. The Bengals play their home games inside as well at Holt Arena.The only two outdoor games on the schedule are an Oct. 26 matchup at Portland State and the regular-season finale at UC Davis on Nov. 16.
After sitting out the opener vs. Valparaiso, sophomore Jameer Jackson returned to the field to catch six passes for 60 yards and also add a 2-yard rushing touchdown in the South Dakota State game. Jackson’s rushing score came on the first carry of his collegiate career. Jackson was a Jerry Rice Award finalist in 2012 after finishing with 55 catches, 705 receiving yards, six touchdowns, a pair of 100-yard receiving games and two multiple-touchdown games.
GROUNDBREAKING FOR UND ATHLETICS HIGH PERFORMANCE CENTER
A groundbreaking ceremony for the UND Athletics High Performance Center was held on Thursday, Sept. 5 at the outdoor practice field, south of Memorial Stadium. The facility will serve as an indoor training facility and be available for each of UND’s 19 athletic teams and includes a 100-yard artificial turf field, a 300-meter, eight-lane track, spectator seating, a state-of-the-art academic center, a sports medicine facility and a weight room.
MILLER BREAKS INTO TOP 10, CHASES 2,000
Senior running back Jake Miller moved into the top 10 for career regular season rushing touchdowns at UND after scoring three in the season-opening win vs. Valparaiso. Miller’s three touchdowns gave him 21 rushing scores for his career, tying him with Bill Deutsch in seventh place on UND’s all-time list. Miller, who only had two rushing scores a season ago, also posted his sixth 100-yard rushing game against the Crusaders, carrying 17 times for 108 yards. After netting 31 yards vs. South Dakota State, Miller needs 179 rushing yards to reach the 2,000-yard plateau for his career.
WHERE IT RANKED
The UND offense scored its most points since moving to the Division I era in the 69-10 season-opening victory over Valpo. It was also the most points scored by UND since defeating Morningside 69-0 in 1972.
• The 69 points were also the third most scored by a FCS team and most by a Big Sky team during the opening weekend.
• Senior wideout Greg Hardin’s 163 receiving yards were the fourth most among FCS receivers in the opening weekend and his 253 all-purpose yards were the second most.
• Hardin’s 90-yard kickoff return was one of four scored in the FCS.
• Sophomore wideout Kenny Golladay’s 64-yard punt return was one of five scored in the FCS. It was Golladay’s first career punt return.
• Redshirt freshman Ryan Bartels pass efficiency was 259.2, which was tops in the Big Sky and would have been tops in the FCS, but he fell short of the minimum requirement of 15 attempts (10-for-12).
Junior Adam Shaugabay earned the role as UND’s short-yardage back during fall camp and showed quickly in the opener that the coaches made a wise decision. Shaugabay only had five carries for 16 yards against the Crusaders, but three of those went for touchdowns. In 19 previous career games, Shaugabay had only found the end zone twice.
Head coach Chris Mussman has two new coordinators calling plays on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball in 2013. Long-time coordinators Greg Breitbach (offensive) and Mike Mannausua (defensive) left the program following the 2012 season. Breitbach is now the head coach at Millersville (Pa.) University - a Division II institution, while Mannausau took over as the Assistant A.D. and executive director of the Champions Club at UND. Their replacements weren’t hard to find, in fact both were just down the hallway as assistant head coach and linebackers coach Josh Kotelnicki was elevated to defensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Luke Schleusner takes over the reigns as offensive coordinator.
Kotelnicki and Schleusner are no strangers to the program as both were key contributors to the 2001 Division II national championship won by UND and both have been on Mussman’s coaching staff. Kotelnicki is entering his eighth season overall on the coaching staff, while Schleusner begins his third. Safeties coach Benny Boyd will take over as the special teams coordinator – a post that Kotelnicki held since the 2008 season.
After landing on The Sports Network All-America Third Team last season (65 catches, 1,145 yards and 15 TDs), senior wide receiver Greg Hardin has garnered plenty of preseason accolades and deservedly so. Hardin was on five preseason All-America Teams (Beyond Sports Network, 1st Team; The Sports Network, 2nd Team, Phil Steele’s, 2nd Team WR and KR, USA College Football; 1st Team and College Sports Journal; 2nd Team). Hardin is also one of 41 FCS players on the Senior Bowl watch list for an invite to that prestigious event and College Football Performance Awards officials have him on their watch lists for wide receiver and kickoff returner of the year accolades. Classmate Zeb Miller was named to the CFPA’s watch list for the organization’s Placekicker of the Year Award and is on the Fred Mitchell watch list for a similar honor. He was also named a preseason All-American by Phil Steele’s (3rd Team) and College Sports Journal (Third Team).
PERMANENT CAPTAINS FOR 2013
Senior linebacker Garrison Goodman and senior wide receiver Blair Townsend were voted permanent team captains for the upcoming 2013 season. Goodman appeared in only seven games a season ago, but still ranked fourth on the team in tackles. Townsend had his most productive season to date, catching 27 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns.
HONORARY GAME CAPTAIN VS. MONTANA
Former offensive lineman Kevin Robson (1989-93) will serve as the honorary game captain for UND’s Hall of Fame Game clash with Montana. Robson was a team captain on UND’s 1993 team that advanced to the Division II national semifinals.
MCGILL TO REDSHIRT
Head coach Chris Mussman announced at the end of fall camp that senior wide receiver R.J. McGill will take his redshirt this season and have one season of eligibility left in 2014. McGill suffered a season-ending knee injury vs. Cal Poly in the fifth game of the 2012 campaign and had to have another minor procedue done to his knee in late August.
FOUR TRUE FRESHMAN SEE ACTION
Three true freshmen made their collegiate debuts in the season-opening win over Valparaiso and four total have played in the first two games. Fullback Dustin Iverson played on a special teams and carried the ball twice for three yards. Defensive tackle Marcus Cheatom also saw action in a reserve role and had two tackle assists. Freshman punter Mitch Meindel made the box score, but for duties other than punting. Meindel only went back to punt once in the opener, but instead of punting, he took off running after an errant snap. Meindel gained a first down on the play after scampering for 17 yards. It was the second longest run from scrimmage for UND during the game. Freshman safety Cam Kuksa was suspended for the opener for a violation of team rules, but made a solo tackle in his first collegiate action vs. SDSU.
In the last three seasons, only four UND players have played during their true freshman season: Jake Miller (RB; 2010), R.J McGill (WR; 2010), Jer Garman (RB; 2011) and Kenny Golladay (WR; 2012).
UND attempted 396 passes during the 2012 campaign, which is a mark only topped once in program history by the 1986 squad (433). The 1986 campaign was also the only other season in UND history where the offense attempted more passes than rushes before 2012. UND rushed 349 times during its inaugural Big Sky season, which was 47 fewer times than the quarterbacks put the ball in the air.
NO FBS GAMES IN 2013
After playing at least one game against a FBS opponent in each of the last four seasons, UND will take a one-year break from playing a team from the highest level of college football. The 2013 schedule worked out to where UND will have seven home games, including non-conference games against Valparaiso, South Dakota State and Montana. UND will resume playing FBS teams in 2014 and has at least one of those opponents scheduled through the 2018 season. Three of UND’s last five games against FBS foes have been decided by eight points or less, including a 49-41 loss at San Diego State in 2012.
2014: Sat., Aug. 30 at San Jose State (Mountain West)
2015: Sat., Sept. 5 at Wyoming (Mountain West)
2016: TBA vs. Bowling Green (MAC)
2017: Thur., Aug. 31 at Utah (Pac-12)
2018: Sat., Sept. 15 at Washington (Pac-12)
FCS teams are allowed to play 12 games this season, but UND and Northern Arizona are the only two in the Big Sky that opted to play 11. The remaining 11 league teams all have full schedules. Like UND, NAU is also playing a non-conference game against a Big Sky foe when the Lumberjacks play at UC Davis on Sept. 14.
COACHING STAFF SHUFFLE
With the elevations of Josh Kotelnicki to defensive coordinator and Luke Schleusner to offensive coordinator, head coach Chris Mussman had some openings to fill on his coaching staff. He filled those by hiring Mike Cunningham to coach the offensive line, former UND safety Joel Schwenzfeier to coach the running backs and Truman State graduate Jason Thier to coach the inside linebackers. Cunningham comes to UND after a seven-year stint with Mankato State where he coached the O-line and was also the running game coordinator since 2009. For Schwenzfeier, this is his first collegiate coaching job, while Thier arrived in Grand Forks after two seasons as the defensive coordinator at Montana Western (NAIA). Assistant Coach Kyle Myers was elevated to a full-time post as well prior to spring football and will coach the defensive line after coaching the outside linebackers in 2012.