Senior Day brings victory

North Dakota earns win in final home game of season Saturday afternoon.

Redshirt freshman Ryan Bartels throws the ball Saturday at the Alerus Center. Photo by Keisuke Yoshimura/The Dakota Student.

The Green and White gridiron gang went out with a bang in their final home game of the season last Saturday, snatching a 24-21 win in the dying minutes of their contest against Northern Colorado.

In a game dominated by the play of UND seniors, receiver Greg Hardin hauled in a game-winning touchdown pass from redshirt freshman quarterback Ryan Bartels with less than two minutes in the game. Hardin finished the afternoon by setting two more school records in his senior finale at the Alerus Center.

The win against the Bears was North Dakota’s second conference win of the season, helping the Green and White improve to 2-5 in the Big Sky (3-7 overall) while Northern Colorado remained winless in conference play this season at 0-6 (1-8 overall).

Although the 2013 season hasn’t played out as the Green and White faithful would have hoped, fans were treated to a record-breaking year by Hardin.

After pulling in seven receptions on the day for 95 receiving yards and a touchdown reception, Hardin broke UND’s all-time regular season record for receptions, finishing the day with 205, and also broke the school’s all-time record for overall receiving yards as he finished the day with 3,404 in that category.

Former UND receiver Weston Dressler (2004-07) was the previous record holder in both cases with 199 receptions and 3,382 yards.

“The records are nice, and it’s an honor to have those achievements, but I’m just happy to get this win,” Hardin said. “This season has not gone like we expected, but this is a nice way to go out at home.”

Hardin and Bartels’ game-winning connection was protected by big play of another UND senior.

With less than two minutes to play in the game, the North Dakota defense needed to stop the Bears offense, which had taken position at midfield. Senior Will Lewis came up big for the Green and White with an interception, clinching the game for North Dakota and handing the Bears their ninth straight loss.

“It was big for everybody, but, for those 17 seniors, that was pretty special for them to end with an interception by one of their own and Greg getting that last touchdown,” UND coach Chris Mussman said. “Defensively, it gave us an opportunity late in the game, and our offense had just enough spark to get it done.”

Bartels had an outstanding performance in his second straight start as the team’s signal caller. Bartels went 31 for 47 in the air for 344 yards while also throwing for two touchdown passes in his second straight 300-yard performance.

Receiver Kenny Golladay complimented Bartels’ airborne attack, hauling in six receptions of his own for 95 yards and a touchdown reception — his fifth in two games.

With North Dakota’s 2013 home schedule officially in the books, the team will travel west this weekend for its season finale with UC Davis. UC Davis comes  into the contest at 3-3 in the Big Sky (3-7 overall) and will look to push over the .500 mark against the Green and White. Kickoff is set for 6:05 p.m.

David Butz is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected].