Editor's note: In this series, the Grand Forks Herald's veteran sports staff ranks their top five memorable moments. Herald sports reporter Tom Miller continues his list with this No. 3 memorable moment.
In 2012, UND’s Braden Hanson was a fifth-year senior, a transfer quarterback from North Carolina, looking for playing time.
By Oct. 20, UND’s eighth game of the 2012 season, Hanson had still never completed a college football game.
With the Tar Heels, he had sat behind future NFL quarterback T.J. Yates, then broke a bone in his leg during UND’s Week 1 win over South Dakota School of Mines. When he came back from that injury, he sat out the end of another game with a head injury.
The Oct. 20 game against Montana, a remarkably memorable 40-34 win at the Alerus Center, would prove to be Hanson’s first he played from start to finish.
The result was 660 passing yards -- a school record (by 145 yards), a Big Sky Conference record and the most ever by a lefthander at any NCAA level.
The previous Division I record for single-game passing yards by a lefty was set by Utah’s Scott Mitchell, who threw for 631 yards against Air Force in 1988. Mitchell went on to play in the NFL with the Detroit Lions and Miami Dolphins.
Hanson’s top receiver against Montana was UND star Greg Hardin, who caught 12 passes for 333 yards, also UND and Big Sky single-game records. Hardin broke the school record by halftime.
After the game, Montana coach Mick Delaey, a veteran in the profession, was wowed with Hanson.
“Their quarterback played as good a game today as any quarterback in college football,” Delaney said.
Hanson completed 42-of-61 passes, finishing with five touchdown strikes. His last one to Hardin was designed to pick up a few yards to move UND closer to field-goal range. Instead, it set off a wild celebration on the UND sideline. Hardin caught the ball in the middle of the field and slipped the grasp of a Montana defender and raced to the end zone.
It capped an amazing passing day for Hanson and his receivers - Hardin, Blair Townsend (13 catches, 152 yards), Jameer Jackson (8-124) and current NFL star Kenny Golladay (7-39) all had big days.
"That's a number you can't even put up in video games," Hardin said after the game.
Hanson led UND to a 31-17 halftime lead. By the break, Hanson had thrown for 410 yards while Hardin already had broken UND's single-game receiving record with 243 yards.
Although Montana struggled in 2012, the win was a program highlight. UND was in its Division I infancy and the Griz were the league’s most recognizable brand.
And UND fans finally had a chance to get the full experience of Hanson, who was one of the program’s most mature and polite athletes in that era.
Hanson ended up at UND by mostly pure luck. When he wanted to leave UNC, he and his dad put together a list of teams that had graduated a starting quarterback from the prior year.
Hanson, a former North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year and Under Armour All-American game participant, came to UND to gain his Master’s in Business Administration.
He ended up flying to Grand Forks before even meeting head coach Chris Mussman or offensive coordinator Greg Breitbach in person.
The 6-foot-5 Hanson would only play in six career games for UND. It's a shame we only caught a glimpse of what he could do.
For this writer, though, he’s the best quarterback in the school’s Division I era and provided one of the most memorable single-game performances in program history.
Herald Top 5 Lists
3. The time a UND quarterback threw for more yards than any left-hander in NCAA history in his first complete college game