GRAND FORKS, N.D. - The North Dakota football team will look for back-to-back Big Sky road wins on Saturday when the squad travels to Portland State for the first time since the 1980 season. Kickoff for the inaugural Turkey Bowl at JELD-WEN Field is set for 1:05 p.m. PT/3:05 p.m. CT.
• After meeting last season in a non-conference game at the Alerus Center, North Dakota faces Portland State in a Big Sky tilt on Saturday at JELD-WEN Field.
• Even though both teams were league members last season, the 45-37 victory by North Dakota did not count in the Big Sky standings.
• It was the first matchup between the two schools on the gridiron since the 1981 season when UND knocked off the Vikings 17-10 in Grand Forks.
• UND leads the all-time series 2-1 after last year’s shootout victory that saw senior Marcus Hendrickson tie the UND single-game record with six touchdown passes in his first career start.
• Three of those scoring tosses went to Greg Hardin, who finished with six catches for 190 yards, and one of those catches was the No. 2 play on Sportcenter’s Top 10.
• PSU won the initial meeting between the teams at home 28-14 in 1980.
• Turnovers have been a major issue for both of these teams this season. PSU has committed 23 (-1.7 turnover margin) to lead the Big Sky, while UND is next in line at 21 (-2.1 turnover margin).
• After playing its first seven games of the 2013 season indoors, UND will finally play one of its two outdoor games on the schedule. UND opened the campaign with six of its first seven games at the Alerus Center with the only road game so far being played at Holt Arena in Pocatello on Oct. 5. UND won that game 28-25.
• UND will play three of its final four games on the road.
LIVE FROM PORTLAND
Video: Watch Big Sky (www.WatchBigSky.com - FREE webcast)
Radio: UND Radio Network (96.1 FM — Grand Forks) Pregame at 1:30 p.m.
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NEXT OPPONENT: PORTLAND STATE
Portland State opened the season by winning three of its first four games, but will look to snap a three-game skid in Saturday’s inaugural Turkey Bowl vs. North Dakota at JELD-WEN Field. The Vikings are coming off a bye week, but fell to Southern Utah 17-7 in their last action on Oct. 12. Those three losses have all come in Big Sky play as the Vikings remain one of three winless league teams entering the weekend.
Sophomore Kieran McDonough has piloted a Vikings’ offense that is tops in the Big Sky averaging 537.0 yards per game and the unit’s 34.1 ppg is fourth best in the league. That average includes the seven-point showing on the road vs. the Thunderbirds. The team’s previous low output for the season was 27 points in a loss at Montana (Oct. 5).
McDonough is third in the league in total offense having passed for 1,723 yards and rushed for 264 more. He is part of a PSU ground attack that ranks second in the league thanks in the most part to senior running back D.J. Adams. The Maryland transfer is one of three Big Sky backs averaging over 100 yards per game (106.1). Adams also has seven rushing touchdowns and including his career at Maryland, the Atlanta, Ga., native has 34 career rushing touchdowns.
Wide receiver Kasey Closs tops the Big Sky charts in receiving yards (722) and is the only league receiver averaging over 100 yards per game (103.1). Closs has 36 receptions with five of those going for TDs.
Defensively, the Vikings ranks sixth in scoring in the Big Sky (25.7 ppg) and 10th in total defense, allowing 420.6 ypg. The Vikings have only made one field goal (four attempts) this season and have 23 turnovers.
The numbers are down a bit from the previous seasons, but the North Dakota special teams unit has been one of the top-kick blocking groups in the FSC since moving up the Division I level in 2008. Redshirt freshman Mike Edwards picked up his second of the season by blocking an extra-point against Sacramento State. Edwards has both of UND’s blocks this season, but the squad has blocked 35 over the past five-plus seasons. Junior center Shea Walker is the team’s active career leader with five, while senior linebacker Cordero Finley has three.
BENNET RACKING UP THE SACKS
Senior Dominique Bennett has collected four sacks in the past three games and leads UND with a career-high five on the season. Bennett’s also the team’s active leader in that category with 13 and is only half-a-sack away from entering UND’s all-time list for regular season sacks. He had a team-high 4.5 during his junior season in 2012. Bennett is currently third on the team with 34 tackles, which include a team-high 7.5 tackles for loss. He had five tackles, two for a loss, a sack and a forced fumble in the Eastern Washington game and added six tackles and a sack vs. Sacramento State.
GOODMAN ANCHORS D
Senior Garrison Goodman shared the team lead in tackles with 10 against Sacramento State, marking the fourth time in his six games he has done that this season. Despite missing the Montana game, Goodman leads the team in tackles at 44 and has twice reached double figures in games this season - equaled a career-high 12 vs. Montana State.
Sophomore Jameer Jackson pulled off a rare double in Saturday’s loss to Sacramento State. As a wide receiver, Jackson led the team in both receiving (60) and rushing yards (29). Jackson had seven catches and now leads the team with 39 and ranks second in the Big Sky with a 6.5 rpg. Jackson is third on the team with 87 rushing yards, averaing 5.1 yards per carry on his 17 rushes.
THREE FOR 30
UND is one of only two teams in the Big Sky (Idaho State) to have three different receivers with 30-plus catches so far in 2013. The Bengals have attempted 106 more passes (347 to 241), however, than UND to get to this point. Sophomore Jameer Jackson leads the team with 39 catches, while classmate Kenny Golladay is second with 37. Senior All-American Greg Hardin has hauled in 34 catches and leads the team with 633 receiving yards (fourth best in the Big Sky). Jackson ranks second in the league with 6.5 catches per game, while Golladay is 10th in receiving yards (515).
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
North Dakota will venture outside for its first non-roofed football game of the 2013 season on Saturday at Portland State. Game-time temperatures are expected in the mid-to-high 60s in Portland, while the team will practice outside at Memorial Stadium in temps hovering around 40 degrees in Grand Forks. This is the latest a UND team has gone into a season without an outdoor game since moving into the Alerus Center in 2001. UND is 6-15 in outdoor games under head coach Chris Mussman, but did win three in a row over current Big Sky teams to close out the 2011 season (Southern Utah, Northern Colorado and UC Davis).
Freshman Cam Kuksa was inserted into the starting lineup at free safety three games ago and the rookie defender has totalled 20 tackles in those contests. He is coming off a season-high, nine-tackle effort against Sacramento State. Kuksa, who missed the opener, ranks fourth on the team in total tackles with 33 on the season. Kuksa is the only true freshman starting for UND this season. Fellow classmate Dustin Iverson is the only true freshman playing on offense. The fullback had the first two receptions of his career vs. Sacramento State, netting eight yards on both of those catches. Defensive tackle Marcus Cheatom has earned a spot on the defensive line rotation and has four tackles in seven appearances.
NORTH DAKOTA STRONG
During the entire month of October, the North Dakota Athletics department has been running the North Dakota Strong campaign to help raise funds and awareness for breast cancer research. Last Saturday’s contest vs. Sacramento State wass the designated football game for the campaign. All proceeds from the campaign will be donated to the Mayo Clinic for breast cancer research and will benefit the community of Grand Forks, including patients of Altru Health System, a proud member of the Mayo Clinic Health Network. North Dakota Strong t-shirts are available for purchase at officially licensed UND retailers. The price of the shirt is $20 and all proceeds go towards the overall donation.
FOURTH DOWN: NO PROBLEM
Head coach Chris Mussman has opted to go for it on fourth down 10 different times this season and his offense has made his decision the right one 80 percent of the time. UND’s success rate on fourth down has them ranked among the top 10 teams in the FCS in that category.
RED ZONE SUCCESS
North Dakota has converted 19 of its 21 opportunities inside the opponent’s red zone (20-yard line) into points this season. The conversion rate of 90.5 percent is tops in the Big Sky and is tied for 13th overall in the FCS. Sixteen of those 19 scores have gone for touchdowns. UND was a perfect 14-for-14 through the first four games before coming up empty on its first trip inside the red zone at Idaho State on Oct. 5. UND went 1-for-2 inside the red zone against Sacramento State in its last outing.
Junior running back Adam Shaugabay has carried the football only 18 times this season, but the Warroad, Minn., native has found the end zone on six of those attempts. Shaugabay’s six rushing touchdowns lead the team and are tied for fifth in the Big Sky. For his career, Shaugabay has eight rushing touchdowns on 40 attempts. His 36 points trail only placekicker Zeb Miller for the team lead in that category. Miller has 37 points on five field goals and 22 extra-points.
MAGIC CARPET RIDE
• UND is 67-18 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 21-13 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
UND will play nine of its 11 games indoors during the 2013 season, including the first seven contests. Five of those will be at the Alerus Center and UND did not play an away game until edging Idaho State 28-25 on Oct. 5. 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. UND has a road game at Northern Arizona, who also plays their home games indoors at the Walkup Skydome.
North Dakota is averaging a 26.1 points per game through seven contests and has seen each unit on the team score multiple touchdowns. The offense clearly leads the way with 19 touchdowns, but both the special teams and defense have also found the end zone. The special teams scored twice in the season-opening win over Valpo thanks to a 90-yard kickoff return from Greg Hardin and a 64-yard punt return by Kenny Golladay. Hardin provided the third special teams touchdown of the season at Idaho State with a 99-yard kickoff return. Meanwhile, the defense has found pay dirt twice this season with fumble returns for scores against Montana State and Idaho State.
MILLER ECLIPSES 2,000-YARD MARK
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 has added two more rushing scores since then and is currently tied for fifth on the all-time charts with 23. Miller, who only had two rushing scores a season ago, also posted his sixth 100-yard rushing game against Valpo, carrying 17 times for 108 yards. Miller’s last rushing touchdown was a seven-yard scamper against Idaho State where he rushed 17 times for 61 yards and surpassed the 2,000-yard plateau for his career. Miller now has 2,060 rushing yards and needs 106 to reach UND’s top 10 in career regular-season rushing yardage.
MOLLBERG GOES THE DISTANCE
For the first time this season against Idaho State (Oct. 5), one of UND’s two redshirt freshman quarterbacks went the distance, taking each snap from under center. After splitting reps for the most part in the opening four games, Joe Mollberg took all 63 snaps in the win over the Bengals. He completed 18-of-27 passes for 234 yards and is now completing 61.2 percent of his attempts this season. For classmate Ryan Bartels, it marked the first time he did not see the field. Mollberg started for the fourth straight game against Sacramento State and ranks fourth among FCS freshmen with 1,393 passing yards this season.
True freshman Mitch Meindel has done an admirable job replacing three-year starter Brett Cameron at the punting position. Through seven games, he is averaging 42.5 ypp, which would easily place him UND’s top 10 for single-season punting average. He has also landed 16 of his 25 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line and has a long of 62 yards this season. But, even more impressive than his punting prowess so far has been his ability to turn potential negative plays into positives for UND. Twice already this season Meindel has taken poor snaps and rushed for first downs (vs. Valpo and at Idaho State). In fact, Meindel’s two carries have gone for 41 yards.
MILLER ON MITCHELL AWARD WATCH LIST
Senior Zeb Miller was one of 26 placekickers throughout all levels of college football to be honored for his performance both on and off the field during the month of September. Miller, who went 3-for-5 on field goals and 17-for-18 on PATs during the season’s opening month, is a candidate for the Fred Mitchell Award, which is given annually to the nation’s top place-kicker based on performance on the field and in the community. Miller has made 41 field goals during his career, which ranks fourth among active players in the FCS and fourth on UND’s all-time career charts.
Senior Greg Hardin and sophomore Kenny Golladay have the UND kickoff and punt return teams ranked near the top of the Big Sky standings through seven games. Hardin is averaging 27.2 yards per kickoff return, which is second in the league and 14th overall in the FCS. He is the only Big Sky player and one of five in the FCS with a pair of kickoff returns for touchdowns this season. Golladay is averaging a league-best 14.0 yards per punt return and had a 64-yard touchdown in the season opener. His 112 punt return yards are the most in the Big Sky as well. UND is the only team averaging more than double-figures on each punt return. The 64-yard return by Golladay is the longest in the Big Sky this season.
The North Dakota defense entered the Idaho State game having forced just two turnovers (fumbles) through four games, but the unit doubled that total against the Bengals. The four forced miscues are the most for a UND defense since collecting three interceptions and a fumble in a 2011 (Oct. 29) contest at Northern Colorado.
Senior Chavon Mackey, who was starting at cornerback for the first time this season, collected the first interception of the season for UND in the second quarter and added his second of the game in the third. Mackey only had two interceptions in 35 career games entering the contest. Both of Mackey’s interceptions came just a play and two plays, respectively, following a UND turnover.
Sophomore Dayo Idowu was in on the next two turnovers, picking off Justin Arias in the third quarter, then deflecting a pitch in the fourth quarter that resulted in linebacker Ben Peters falling on the eventual game-winning touchdown in the end zone. For Idowu, the interception and forced fumble were both the first of his career.
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 seven games. Fullback Dustin Iverson played on special teams and carried the ball twice for three yards vs. Valpo. 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 and added four in the loss to Montana. Kuksa has since started three games and ranks fourth on the team with 33 tackles. He had his first career sack vs. Eastern Washington.
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).
LEE BOHNET HONORED
Longtime UND sports information director Lee Bohnet had the press box at the Alerus Center named after him in a special ceremony held Saturday morning at the current home of UND football. Bohnet, who passed away in 1999 after a long illness, became the first sports information director (SID) in UND history after he was hired by athletic director Glenn “Red” Jarrett in 1953. A World War II veteran, Bohnet worked in the SID role for 35 years until his retirement in 1988. Known for his in-depth researching and undaunted loyalty to the Fighting Sioux, Bohnet is a member of the UND Athletics, College Sports Information Directors of America and North Central Conference Hall of Fames. He wrote the book “A Century of UND Sports”, which chronicled the history of the athletic department’s first 100 years of existence and found no greater joy than when UND defeated its fiercest rivals on the gridiron, court or ice. Bohnet was also the co-creator of the Potato Bowl USA game that has been annual affair for UND since 1966. He will have a plaque placed in the Alerus Center press box to celebrate his legacy as one of the best SIDs in the history of college athletics.
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.
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.
ADAMS MAKES UND DEBUT
Offensive lineman Dustin Adams made his UND debut against Montana in a reserve role on the offensive line. Adams, a Minot, N.D., native, transferred to UND from Northern Illinois after redshirting with a knee injury last season.
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.
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).
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 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).
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.
TOP 50 BIG SKY MOMENTS
The Big Sky Conference is celebrating 50 years of sponsoring men’s collegiate sports this year by selecting the top 50 student-athletes and moments during the league’s first half-century. UND has only been a Big Sky member for just over a year now, but southpaw Braden Hanson managed to put UND on the “Top 50 Moments” list with a jaw-dropping performance in the 40-34 victory over Montana last season. Hanson’s Big Sky record 660-yard passing game came in as the No. 46 moment. The left-handed transfer from North Carolina spent only one season in Grand Forks, but left his name in both the school’s and Big Sky record books. Hanson completed a UND record 42 passes that day and his 660 yards are the most ever by a left-handed quarterback at any level of NCAA Football. The Alerus Center faithful were also treated to a record-setting day by one of Hanson’s receivers as Greg Hardin broke the Big Sky’s single-game receiving record by hauling in 333 yards on 12 receptions. It was also Hardin’s third three-touchdown game of the season.
HARDIN WINS CFPA’S FCS ELITE WIDE RECEIVER AWARD
College Football Performance Award officials let Greg Hardin know in late December that he was their 2012 FCS Elite Wide Receiver of the Year. The announcement came via official letter to the Bellevue, Neb., native, who became the first North Dakota player to earn an individual national award at the FCS level. Throughout the season, Hardin garnered four weekly honors from CFPA. He earned the National Performer of the Week honor after breaking the Big Sky record with 333 receiving yards and three touchdowns in the 40-34 victory over Montana on Oct. 20. He was the CFPA’s National Wide Receiver of the Week also against the Griz and vs. Portland State (Sept. 8). And, he was named the CFPA’s National Kickoff Returner of the Week following the Southern Utah game (Nov. 3). Southern Cal’s Marquise Lee was named the FBS Elite Wide Receiver of the Year.
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. So far in 2013, that trend has continued. UND has thrown 202 passes through six games, which averages out to 33.6 pass attempts per game. At that rate, UND quarterbacks would attempt 370 passes in 2013.
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