UND prepares for home battle

BIG SKY: North Dakota will kick off Saturday against Montana at the Alerus Center.

As the weeks pass, college students have begun to settle into their classes and find a comfortable daily routine — as has the UND football team.

The team is heading into the third week of the season, making preparations for Saturday’s upcoming non-conference tune-up match against Montana (1-0).

The game marks the second year in a row in which North Dakota (1-1) has an opportunity to play against a fellow Big Sky Conference member in a non-conference contest to prepare for the rest of the season.

Last year, the Green and White defeated Big Sky foe Portland State 45-37 in a similar non-conference match-up. They must now face a Montana team coming off of a 30-6 upset Aug. 31st over No. 6 ranked Appalachian State.

The last time North Dakota and Montana met was  October when the Green and White ran off with an electrifying 40-34 victory in front of a “black-out” crowd at the Alerus Center.

All-American receiver Greg Hardin hauled in a 32-yard pass from quarterback Braden Hanson with 12 seconds left to give UND the go-ahead score and victory. The reception pushed Hardin to 333 receiving yards on the day, a Big Sky Conference and UND school record while he also caught a career high 12 passes in the game.

The victory over the Grizzlies took place in the air that afternoon, as Hanson completed 42 of 61 passes for a monster 660 total passing yards. The completions topped UND’s previous record for total completions in a game, while 660 passing yards became another Big Sky Conference record to be held by a North Dakota player.

The Green and White will look to repeat last year’s production against Montana with their dynamic quarterback duo of Ryan Bartels and Joe Mollberg.

“We have to be productive in the air,” UND head coach Chris Mussman said. “(Offensively), that really is our strength.”

Both Bartels and Mollberg have come fresh into the 2013 campaign as collegiate rookies, however they have not let the lack of experience hinder their production. Bartels has passed for 390 yards while Mollberg has 333 of his own, and the two have combined to help produce an average of 499.5 yards per game of total offense, a mark that is eighth overall in the FCS.

No UND football game would be complete or as exciting without the dynamic play of Greg Hardin, who is looking to become a household name in the Big Sky Conference in 2013.

Hardin leads the FCS in receiving yards with 370, while his 185 receiving yards per game is also tops in the FCS. Currently, Hardin trails the UND all-time receiving yards record by just 119 yards, a mark he could very well break this Saturday against the Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies, a traditionally strong team, will look to rebound from a dismal 3-5 (5-6 overall) mark in the Big Sky in 2012 while the Green and White look to improve from that same mark.

“I think they’re a lot better (than last year)” Mussman said.

Montana leads the series at 11-8-1, while both squads are tied at 4-4-1 when playing in Grand Forks.

Opening kickoff is slated for 6:05 p.m. Saturday in the Alerus Center.

David Butz is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at david.butz@my.und.edu