UND can’t look back with No. 4 Bobcats waitingGRAND FORKS — The University of North Dakota’s record-setting win against Montana last week was the Green and White’s feel-good moment of the season. But, as UND is discovering in the Big Sky Conference, feel-good moments are fleeting at best.
By: Wayne Nelson, Forum Communications
GRAND FORKS — The University of North Dakota’s record-setting win against Montana last week was the Green and White’s feel-good moment of the season. But, as UND is discovering in the Big Sky Conference, feel-good moments are fleeting at best.
That’s especially true when your next opponent is No. 4 Montana State, a national FCS title contender that has had two weeks to think about its lone loss of the season. Also, Montana State has the best defense in the Big Sky.
So, is another 700-yard day by UND’s offense in the works?
“It’s not about shooting to have 700 yards or score a certain amount of points,” UND quarterback Braden Hanson said. “We just want to move the chains and score enough points to win.
“Whatever we can do — run or pass — we’ll do our best to keep moving the chains.”
UND’s win against Montana remains the buzz of the Big Sky early in the week. League and national honors for Hanson and receiver Greg Hardin have been rolling in since the 40-34 victory.
Hanson threw for 660 yards, single-game UND and Big Sky records. Hardin caught 12 passes for 333 yards, UND and Big Sky single-game records as well. UND recorded a school-record 702 yards of offense against the Griz.
“This is my 14th year here and we’ve had some pretty good quarterbacks along the way,” UND coach Chris Mussman said. “We went down and played Augie (in 2002) and (John) Bowenkamp threw for 515 yards and Jesse Smith had 232 receiving yards. I didn’t think I’d ever see another day like that again.
“But no one throws the ball like Braden. No one is as accurate as he is. We knew that in spring ball. But we didn’t know how that would translate over to the Big Sky and the competition we’re seeing.”
The landscape and opponent, however, will change drastically Saturday in Bozeman, where the weather forecast calls for a high temperature of 45 degrees with a slight chance of precipitation. The bigger concern, though, is Montana State’s defense, which allows 300.9 yards per game.
“This will be the fastest FCS team we’ll see,” UND coach Chris Mussman said of the Bobcats’ defense.
UND will play its highest-ranked opponent in the program’s Division I era. Its three losses this season have come against No. 1 Eastern Washington, No. 11 Cal Poly and No. 13 Northern Arizona. Those teams are a combined 19-2 overall and 14-0 in the Big Sky.
The game at Montana State will wrap up a five-week grind that no Big Sky team has had to face.
The win against Montana, however, came at the right time for UND, which broke a three-game losing streak.
“Hopefully, this will build some confidence for us,” Mussman said. “When we look back, we’ll look at this as being a signature win for the program. The argument we’ve always heard was that we had to be affiliated with the Montanas and Montana States of the world and be at that level as an athletic program.”