GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Even though the Big Sky is a new conference for the North Dakota football team, Eastern Washington is the only league opponent on this year’s eight-game schedule the squad has never played before. That will change on Saturday when the two teams meet for the first time on the red turf at Roos Field at 7:05 p.m. CT.
• At No. 7 in both The Sports Network/Fathead.com and FCS Coaches polls this week, Eastern Washington will be the highest-ranked opponent UND has faced since moving up to this level in 2008.
• UND is 3-4 vs. ranked opponents since making the move to Division I and is 1-3 on the road against ranked foes.
• The last time UND played a ranked opponent on the road, the visitors sprung the upset, defeating No. 17 Southern Utah 26-20 last season on Oct. 1 .
• This will be just the fifth trip for the UND football team to the state of Washington. In the previous four trips, the Green and White came away victorious in all of them, knocking off Central Washington in 2001 (17-14), 2005 (44-20), 2006 (28-14) and 2007 (63-42).
• When UND kicked off with No. 23 Cal Poly on Saturday, the team’s next five opponents were all ranked in The Sports Network/Fathead.com Top 25 poll. That fact changed a little after Eastern rallied for a 32-26 victory over No. 21 Montana - knocking the Griz (2-3, 0-2 Big Sky) from the polls for the first time since 1998.
• Now as it stands, three of the team’s next four opponents are ranked as Northern Arizona (Oct. 13) moved up to No. 18 on the heels of a four-game winning streak and Montana State (Oct. 27) remained unbeaten and at No. 2. UND plays Montana (Oct. 20) at home in between those two contests.
• UND was still receiving votes in both of the polls released this week, garnering 56 points in the TSN/Fathead.com poll (34th) and seven points in the FCS Coaches poll (34th).
• Despite beind held to a season-low 17 points in the setback to Cal Poly, UND still ranks first in the Big Sky in scoring offense (40.8 ppg) and total offense (478.6 ypg). The team’s 27 touchdowns are also the most in the league and after 14 of the first 20 came through the air, UND has scored five of its last seven touchdowns on the ground.
• Senior Mitch Sutton and junior Greg Hardin share the Big Sky lead with seven touchdowns a piece. Sutton’s seven rushing touchdowns are a new career-high for a single season after he had six ground scores (one receiving) as a redshirt freshman in 2009.
LIVE FROM CHENEY
Fans wanting to follow all the action from the red turf at Roos Field in Cheney, Wash, can do so in a variety of ways.
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
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 chat live at www.UNDSports.com
Stats: Live stats will be avail able at ewulive.statb.us or
on your mobile phone at ewustats.com
Twitter: For live scoring updates and game notes follow @UNDFootball
A LITTLE HISTORY
UND and Eastern Washington have never met before, but the current head coaches for both teams have some gridiron history to fall back on. Even though this will be the first meeting between Eastern’s Beau Baldwin and UND’s Chris Mussman as the head coach for their respective schools - the two have been on opposing sidelines for four previous matchups.
In 2000, UND defeated Central Washington 52-7 in the season opener at the Alerus Center with Mussman serving as the offensive line coach and Baldwin as the Wildcats’ quarterbacks coach.
In 2001, Mussman had been elevated to offensive coordinator, while Baldwin remained the quarterbacks coach in a 17-14 victory for UND on the road.
In 2002, Central Washington would take its only victory in the all-time series (UND leads 6-1) with a 43-7 win as both coaches served in the same capacity as the year before.
In 2007, Baldwin returned to Central Washington as the head coach following a four-year post at Eastern Washington as the Eagles’ offensive coordinator. It would also be Mussman’s final season as the O-coordinator before he took over as head coach at UND in 2008. The Green and White would hand the Wildcats a 35-28 setback in a season that saw both teams lose to Grand Valley State in the Division II playoffs.
LAST TIME OUT
After falling behind 14-0 to No. 23 Cal Poly in the first quarter, UND chipped away at the deficit over the next two quarters to finally take a 17-14 lead on a two-yard touchdown run by Marcus Hendrickson early in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, the Mustangs had an answer of their own, reeling off 21 unaswered points in a much faster fashion. That big fourth quarter by the visitors dealt UND its first loss in Big Sky play, 35-17. Hendrickson threw for 276 yards and rushed for a team-high 66 yards and a touchdown, but a season-high four turnovers by the offense proved costly.
THIRD QUARTER LOCKDOWN
A touchdown by San Diego State in the Aztecs’ 49-41 victory over UND on Sept. 15 are the only points scored on the Green and White defense during the third quarter this season.
In retrospect, the second quarter has been the best scoring stanza for the UND offense. That unit has piled up 72 points in the quarter right before halftime, including a 31-point outburst in the season opener vs. SD Mines.
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 endzone twice. His fortunes have changed in his final collegiate campaign as Sutton has already produced seven rushing touchdowns through five games. Sutton’s career-high rushing scores are also tied for the most ground scores by a Big Sky rusher this season (Cal Poly’s Deonte Williams).
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.
BEAUTY IN BALANCE
The North Dakota offense is the only one in the FCS currenty ranked in the top 30 in both passing offense (11th, 286.5/ypg) and rushing offense (28th, 191.8/ypg). UND is also the only team ranked in the top four in the Big Sky in both categories (3rd/PO and 4th/RO). The unit has combined those two efforts to rank sixth in the FCS in both scoring offense (40.8 ppg) and eigth in total offense (478.6 ypg).
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 30 blocks.
Offensive lineman Shea Walker added to UND’s 2012 total when he got his paws on a field goal at Sac State (Sept. 22) to push the team’s season total to four. Walker deflected a 52-yard field goal attempt as time expired in the first half for his third career block.
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. 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 64-13 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 points.
FIRST HALF FRIGHT
The North Dakota football team is averaging 24.2 ppg in the opening halves of the first five games of the season. The offense has churned out 121 points and scored 16 of its 27 touchdowns in the opening 30 minutes of those games. Last season, UND scored a total of 161 first-half points (14.6/g).
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 five games into the season. His total of 14 is tied for third among FCS quarterbacks.
STILL RUN FIRST
Despite racking up nearly 1,500 yards through the air in the first five games, the UND offense has still attempted more runs (191) than passes (151) 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 five games. UND’s two fifth-year senior quarterbacks have thrown 16 scoring tosses, while the ground game has accounted for 10. Last season, junior Jake Miller led a ground unit that posted 19 rushing scores to only 12 scores by the UND signal callers.
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.
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 five-game run to open 2012:
• Has 24 catches for 495 yards and ranks in a tie for second in the FCS with seven touchdowns.
• Leads the Big Sky with those seven receiving touchdowns and ranks second in the league with those 495 receiving yards.
• Hardin’s 99.0 receiving yards per game average is 11th 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 38 receiving yards vs. Cal Poly, moved into sixth on UND’s all-time receiving yardage charts with 1,780. He bumped his receiving coach -- Luke Schleusner -- from that list earlier this season.
• All of Hardin’s 1,780 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.
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. 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.