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TOM MILLER: UND football blown out by the middle of the Big Sky

The only intrigue in North Dakota's matchup with Sacramento State on Saturday was UND's opportunity to compete against a middle-of-the-pack Big Sky Conference opponent after a slew of tough games to start the year.

Tom Miller
Tom Miller portrait

The only intrigue in North Dakota's matchup with Sacramento State on Saturday was UND's opportunity to compete against a middle-of-the-pack Big Sky Conference opponent after a slew of tough games to start the year.

Sacramento State might be 3-1 in the league, but the Hornets are definitely not Montana, Montana State or Eastern Washington. They're not even Northern Arizona or Cal Poly.

Coming in, we knew UND wasn't an upper echelon Big Sky program. That much had been proven. Some had even come to peace with that. But what was North Dakota?

We found out in UND's discouraging 31-7 loss to the Hornets in front of a small crowd that should have been stunned but was just apathetic. The mood is no longer passion, it's indifference.

When you're blown out by the middle of the Big Sky, that makes you the bottom of the barrel.

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That's where North Dakota's program sits. Shocking, isn't it?

Even UND coach Chris Mussman has said it over the course of the season that eventually you no longer can talk about potential and simply speak of production.

And what UND has consistently produced is an underwhelming, under-performing product that hasn't kept fans in their seats in a single fourth quarter during the home schedule.

Surprisingly, it's not the defense worth belittling. No unit has under-performed quite like the Green and White offense.

UND's offense set program passing records a year ago and returned one of the best wide receiving corps in FCS.

Against Sacramento State, UND was shutout at halftime and mustered one score for the game.

That vaunted passing attack? UND hasn't thrown a touchdown pass in three straight games.

Since redshirt freshman quarterback Joe Mollberg was named the starter, he's thrown for no touchdowns and six interceptions. In the last four weeks, UND's quarterbacks have thrown one touchdown to eight picks.

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All-American Greg Hardin is the school's all-time regular-season receiving yardage leader. He brought numerous NFL scouts to Memorial Stadium this fall to check out his talents.

Against Sacramento State, Hardin didn't have a catch in the first half. He finished with three grabs for 41 yards and dropped a sure touchdown pass in the end zone.

Hardin hasn't had a touchdown catch since Week 2 against South Dakota State. He's third on the team in receptions now.

The UND football program has two things going for it right now.

One, it's on the road the rest of the season, save for one final home game against Northern Colorado. Otherwise, attendance would reach further embarrassing marks.

Two, it's hockey season and for once the football crowd should welcome the distraction.

Grand Forks will turn its eyes to the ice a little sooner this school year. And why not? At this point, the football product is unwatchable.

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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