UND expects QB pressure from Montana
GRAND FORKS -- Montana comes to the Alerus Center this weekend boasting the country's best pass rush as the Grizzlies have 26 sacks on the season.
North Dakota, meanwhile, is quarterbacked by a pocket passer playing on one good leg.
University of North Dakota's ability to protect quarterback Braden Hanson will be a development to watch Saturday at 2:40 p.m. when the teams face off in Big Sky Conference play.
"I've got to get rid of the ball quicker," said Hanson, who will be starting his second straight game after missing more than four games with a broken leg. "We've got to hold up in pass protection, but it's not just on our offensive line. Our wide receivers also need to have a sense of urgency, and you've got to get rid of the ball. I can't be greedy; I have to throw some underneath routes as well."
The Griz racked up seven sacks last week in a loss to Southern Utah. Montana's pressure is paced by sophomore defensive end Zack Wagenmann, who has eight sacks.
Like Hanson, SUU quarterback Brad Sorensen isn't a dual-threat quarterback. Against the Griz, Sorensen, who many consider a pro prospect, was 30-for-53 passing for 294 yards and two touchdowns.
"Southern Utah didn't care (about the sacks) and decided to throw 55 times anyway," UND coach Chris Mussman said. "Their 'D' is very good. They like to mix up pressures and movements, and they roll two deep along the defensive line. Our big challenge is up front with our offensive line against their defensive line."
One difference that may exist between the UND and Southern Utah offenses is the possibility of North Dakota being more balanced with a rushing attack. SUU ran the ball 29 times for 76 yards against the Griz last week.
"North Dakota has a fine run game and a strong offensive line," said Montana coach Mick Delaney. "We have to control both aspects."
Although Hanson took nearly all of the snaps last week against Northern Arizona and is expected to start against Montana, Delaney is aware of the capabilities of UND backup Marcus Hendrickson, who has shown flashes of brilliance in Hanson's absences this season.
"No matter who the quarterback is -- and they're both very good and different in nature -- we have to get pressure," Delaney said. "(Hanson) might be hobbled, but he still has a tremendous arm. He's really smart as far as his throwing."
UND has given up 16 sacks this season, which is middle of the pack statistically in the Big Sky. However, that stat might be misleading in that Hendrickson escaped pressure many times with his incredible athleticism.
"For the most part, we've protected our quarterbacks well," Mussman said.
In watching film in preparation for North Dakota, Delaney echoed Mussman's comments from earlier this week regarding the two programs experiencing similar ups and downs this season.
"Exactly," Delaney said. "We're very, very much alike. They've played very well in every game and had a chance in the fourth quarter, even against San Diego State. The only game that got out of hand was Eastern Washington. Other than that, they could have won every game they've played."