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Wayne Nelson / Forum Communications Co., Published April 21 2012

Bradley, Hanson continue to vie for Sioux starting QB job at spring game

GRAND FORKS – The University of North Dakota’s spring football season ended Saturday at the Alerus Center without an answer to the program’s biggest question.

Who will start at quarterback in the fall when the Sioux begin their first season in the Big Sky Conference?

However, there isn’t as much urgency to answering the question as there was last year.

At the annual Green-White game, quarterbacks Joey Bradley – last year’s starter – and North Carolina transfer Braden Hanson both had their moments as the Green team took a 20-14 win over the White squad before nearly 2,000 fans.

And for good measure, Marcus Hendrickson – who had been taking reps with the No. 3 unit – threw a perfect 40-yard scoring pass to Blair Townsend, whose one-handed grab was the catch of the day.

Still, UND coach Chris Mussman wasn’t going to name a starter for the Sioux opener in the fall against South Dakota Mines.

“We’ll continue to iron out the quarterback battle,” Mussman said. “We’ll break it down on film. There are a lot of different factors that go into completing a pass. There were times when the officials let us throw the ball when we probably would have been sacked.

“And it’s not just about one game. It’s a cumulative effect. But we’re in a better position at quarterback than we were a year ago.”

Bradley, who started the first seven games last season, went 12-for-24 for 240 yards and two touchdowns. Hanson completed 5 of 6 passes for 97 yards and one touchdown.

Both threw the long ball well, as their receivers – R.J. McGill, Greg Hardin and Townsend – all had productive days. McGill caught six passes for 110 yards for the Green team while Hardin hauled in four catches for 99 yards and a score for the Green. Townsend finished with five receptions for 109 yards and two touchdowns for the White team.

Both Bradley and Hanson know the battle for the top spot isn’t over.

Bradley’s solid showing and Hanson’s productive spring should make for an interesting fall camp.

“It’s a night and day difference compared to last year,” said Bradley, who transferred to UND last season. “I know the plays, the terminology now. Now I’m thinking about what the defense is going to do and how I’m going to react to it.

“And I’m stronger this year. I’ve put on 10 to 15 pounds. I don’t have to get as much on the throws as I had to before. It’s more about confidence.”

Mussman saw an improved Bradley performance.

“You saw a different football coming out of Joey’s hand,” Mussman said. “And you saw him put a good touch on the ball, too.”

Hanson, who took the reps with the No. 1 unit during the last week of the spring season, wants to get better, too.

“Individually, I was pleased,” Hanson said. “I still need to get better. I need to keep making strides over the summer. We’re competing every day, making each other better.”

Still, the defense figures to be the program’s strength when the Sioux join the Big Sky.

“When we pressure and play our style, we can be pretty good defensively,” Mussman said.

Nelson is the sports editor for the Grand Forks Herald