Grand Forks, N.D. - The North Dakota football team has one of the most intriguing 2013 schedules in the Football Championship Subdivision and it all starts on Thursday night when Valparaiso comes to the Alerus Center. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. as the Crusaders will be just the fifth August opponent for UND.
The Green and White are also just one of two FCS teams that will play its first four games of the 2013 season at home. That has not been the case for a UND since the 1955 squad opened its campaign with four straight home contests.
The three teams that follow Valpo into town are currently ranked in both The Sports Network/Fathead.com and FCS Coaches' Top 25 polls.
• Valparaiso and North Dakota have gone 92 seasons since meeting on Thanksgiving Day in 1920. It is the longest stretch between a game in a series in UND history. Valpo won that day by the score of 20-10 in the only previous matchup between the teams.
• UND improved to 87-29-1 with its 66-0 victory over South Dakota Mines in the 2012 season opener.
• This is the second time in three seasons that UND has opened its schedule with a team from the Pioneer Football League. UND blanked Drake 16-0 in 2011.
• August games have been a rarity for UND, but they’ve also been good to the program. UND improved to 5-0 in the month in 2012 after posting a 66-0 victoy over South Dakota Mines on Aug. 30.
• UND’s blanking of SD Mines was its 41st in a season opener. It was the second straight shutout in a season opener, including that win over the Bulldogs in 2011.
• The win over the Hardrockers was also the 23rd straight home-opening win for UND and the 66 points were the most ever scored in a season opener.
LIVE FROM GRAND FORKS
TV: Midco Sports Network (Channel 27, 622)
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
NEXT OPPONENT: VALPARAISO
Veteran head coach Dale Carlson is in his fourth season leading the Valparaiso football program. The Crusaders struggled through a 1-10 campaign in 2012 with their lone win coming in a 41-21 victory over fellow Pioneer Football League foe Campbell on Nov. 3. The next week, Valpo nearly picked up back-to-back wins for the first time in Carlson’s tenure at the school, but fell to Davidson in overtime, 28-27.
The Crusaders bring back their top offensive and defensive players from the 2012 season. Senior safety Alex Grask led the team and was fourth in the PFL in tackles with 113. Sophomore running back Jake Hutson was third in the PFL in rushing with 753 yards and also added eight touchdowns. Hutson also had 35 receptions for 266 yards and finished with 1,019 yards from scrimmage.
DID YOU KNOW?
• UND quarterbacks coach Danny Freund used to serve as a ball boy during Valparaiso games as a youngster. Freund grew up in Kenosha, Wis., which is just a couple of hours away from the Indiana school.
• Valparaiso is the only school from Indiana that UND has ever played on the gridiron.
• The 2013 season marks the 21st year for the Pioneer Football League – the nation’s only non-scholarship, football-only NCAA Football Championship Subdivision conference.
• The PFL is one of only two conferences that sponsor football as its only sport (the Missouri Valley Football Conference being the other).
HISTORY OF THE SERIES
These teams met only once previously with Valparaiso taking a 20-10 decision from UND on Thanksgiving Day in 1920.
MAGIC CARPET RIDE
• UND is 66-13 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 20-9 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 last season.
• In those 20 home wins under Mussman’s guidance, UND is averaging 38.0 ppg and the team is 17-1 at home when scoring 30 or more points. The only setback occurred last season when Northern Arizona defeated UND 45-38 on Oct. 13.
BARTLES EDGES MOLLBERG FOR TOP QB SPOT
Redshirt freshmen Ryan Bartels and Joe Mollberg entered fall camp in a tight battle for the top quarterback spot and it took every snap of fall camp before head coach Chris Mussman decided on his starting quarterback. The winner of that competion would end up being Bartles, who will make his first career start against Valpo. UND has four quarterbacks on its current roster and no one among that quartet has every attempted a pass in a collegiate game. Both Bartels and Mollberg quarterbacks performed admireably in the 2013 Spring Game. Bartels was efficient for the Green Team, completing 9-of-10 passes for 78 yards and a touchdown, while Mollberg led the White Team to the victory after completing 14-of-20 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown. Fellow redshirt freshman Jake Hanson split time between both squads and combined to go 4-for-7 for 76 yards and a touchdown.
Head coach Chris Mussman will have 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.
THURSDAYS WITH MUSSMAN
Head coach Chris Mussman is entering his sixth season at the helm of the North Dakota football team and this will mark the fifth time his team has opened a campaign on a Thursday. Mussman is 3-1 in those contests, including back-to-back shutouts in the previous two season openers (16-0 over Drake in 2011 and 66-0 over South Dakota Mines in 2012).
FROM THE DID YOU KNOW CATEGORY
• UND opens the season with four straight home games; the last time that happened was in 1955.
• UND will play nine of its 11 regular season games indoors. The only road games on the slate are at Portland State (Oct. 26) and UC Davis (Nov. 16) will be played outdoors.
• 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.
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 is 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. VALPO
Former UND offensive lineman Mac Schneider will serve as the honorary captain for the season opener vs. Valparaiso. Schneider was a member of the 2001 Division II national championship team and served as a team captain during his senior season of 2002. Schneider is currently a senator for the state of North Dakota.
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. McGill tried to come back for fall camp, but after a handful of practices was shut down.
THREE TRUE FRESHMEN ON TWO-DEEP
A trio of true freshman found their names on the official two-deep following fall camp. On offense, fullback Dustin Iverson will back up Dewayne Pecosky, while strong safety Cam Kuksa will serve as Baylee Carr’s back up in the defensive backfield. Freshman punter Mitch Meindel takes over the reigns for three-year starter Brett Cameron, who graduated in 2012.
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)
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.
QUICKLY MAKING BIG SKY HISTORY
Braden Hanson spent only one season at North Dakota, but managed to put his name in both the school’s and Big Sky record books during his brief tenure in Grand Forks. Hanson completed a UND record 42 passes for a school and Big Sky record 660 yards in a thrilling 40-34 victory over Montana on Oct. 20. 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 ERASES UND'S NAME FROM BIG SKY RECORD BOOKS
Junior Greg Hardin set a Big Sky single-game record with 333 receiving yards in the 40-34 victory over Montana on Oct. 20 and in the process erased UND’s name from the record book. Northern Colorado’s Patrick Walker was the previous record holder after he racked up 315 yards against UND last season in what turned out to a 27-25 victory for the visitors at Nottingham Field. Walker won’t pose a threat for UND this time around as the speedster was a senior in 2011.
HEAVE IT TO HARDIN
Junior Greg Hardin became just the third receiver in UND history to eclipse the 2,000-yard receiving mark in regular season play vs. Montana and the sixth to surpass the 1,000-yard single season mark vs. Southern Utah (Nov. 3). It was a memorable season for the 5-foot-11 wideout from Bellevue, Neb.
Here is a look at Hardin's 2012 season:
• 65 catches for 1,145 yards and ranked first in the Big Sky with 14 receiving touchdowns.
• Four multiple-touchdown games on the season, including a trio of three-touchdown games.
• Five 100-yard receiving games to bring his career total to nine in that category.
• Registered a then career-high 190-yard receiving game vs. Portland State (Sept. 8) and scored three touchdowns to earn the CFPA National Wide Receiver of the Week Award.
• Opened the season with three-consecutive 100-yard receiving games, marking the first time in his career he had achieved that.
• His 27-yard circus catch in the second quarter of the Portland State contest was the No. 2 ‘Play of the Day’ on ESPN’s Sportscenter. 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.
JACKSON NAMED JERRY RICE AWARD FINALIST
Redshirt freshman Jameer Jackson emerged as one of the top rookie wideouts in the FCS during the 2012 season and was named one of 20 finalists for the Jerry Rice Award, which is given annually to the best freshman in the FCS. He finished with a pair of 100-yard receiving games and two multiple-touchdown games and ranked high nationally among his fellow freshmen in several categories:
86 - Sean Hill, Appalachian State
58 - D.J. Ward, Stephen F. Austin
55 - Jameer Jackson, North Dakota
1,196 - Sean Hill, Appalachian State
721 - D.J. Ward, Stephen F. Austin
705- Jameer Jackson, North Dakota
8 - Sean Hill, Appalachian State
6 - Jameer Jackson, North Dakota
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 33 blocks. The unit added two more blocks in the loss at Montana State.
Offensive lineman Shea Walker leads the team with three blocks in 2012 and now has five for his career, which is tops among his teammates. Walker blocked a 52-yard field goal at Sac State, deflected an extra point at Eastern Washington and got his forearm on a 37-yard attempt by Montana State.
RECORD REWIND: WHAT A GAME
After the dust, or in this case those tiny rubber pellets from the Alerus Center turf, settled on Oct. 20, the UND offense had churned out its most yardage in school history. The result was a crushing impact on a number of Big Sky and school single-game records. Here’s a look at those yardage totals:
• 702: single-game UND record for total offense
• 660: single-game UND and Big Sky records for passing offense by a team and an individual (Braden Hanson) - third most by a quarterback in FCS history
• 420: single-game UND record for all-purpose yards by an individual (Greg Hardin) - second most in Big Sky history (437; Ryan Fuqua of Portland State vs. Eastern Washington)
• 333: single-game UND and Big Sky records for individual receiving yards (Greg Hardin) - fourth most by a receiver in FCS history
QUITE THE DEBUT
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 offense on fourth down twice. The 22-point victory was the highest-ever by a league team in its first Big Sky game dating back to the league’s inception in 1963.
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