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Wayne Nelson / Forum News Service, Published April 20 2013

Quarterbacks impress at UND football spring game

GRAND FORKS – As a radio analyst, University of North Dakota football coach Chris Mussman sat in the press box Saturday during the annual Green and White spring game. But Mussman, in his new role, didn’t get the chance to second guess the play of his young quarterbacks.

Neither Joe Mollberg or Ryan Bartels – both redshirt freshmen – gave Mussman much of an opportunity to be critical of their work as both quarterbacks put on quality performances before a spring game crowd of nearly 2,000 at the Alerus Center.

To no one’s surprise, the two quarterbacks will exit spring ball in a near dead heat in the race to become the starting quarterback when UND opens its 2013 season in August against Valparaiso.

“I was sitting where you guys normally sit in the press box and was watching as a fan more than anything,” Mussman said. “And Joe and Ryan both played well. I like the way they competed. You saw some very good footballs thrown by those guys.”

Mollberg, however, led the White team to a 24-14 win over the Green squad.

“They’re still going to rotate with the No. 1s,” Mussman said. “I’m not going to handcuff one of them right now.”

Statistically, both were strong.

Mollberg completed 14 of 20 attempts for 153 yards and a touchdown. Bartels completed 9 of 10 for 78 yards and a touchdown.

Not to be outdone, Jake Hanson – a former Grafton standout – also made an impression at quarterback, going 4-for-7 for 76 yards and a touchdown.

The quarterbacks were under the spotlight heading into the spring game, but receiver Kenny Golladay stole the show, catching six passes for 78 yards for the White team.

He hauled in one TD pass and scored another on an athletic 8-yard reverse – a score punctuated with his spike over the crossbar.

UND’s strength will be its receiving corps. Golladay, Jameer Jackson, Blair Townsend and Greg Hardin all had their moments. Hardin, a first-team all-Big Sky selection, was the quietest among the group, catching two passes for 15 yards.

“I wanted to be more aggressive in my routes,” said Golladay, a 6-foot-4, 195-pound sophomore. “I want to get better overall, not just catching the deep ball. I want to get better around the edges, too.”

Mollberg said the depth and talent of UND’s receiving corps make his job easier.

“They get a lot of the credit,” Mollberg said. “They are some great players.”

Bartels, meanwhile, had a fumble that led to Cordero Finley’s recovery in the end zone for a White team touchdown. That was about the only negative in an otherwise positive performance.

“Looking back, you want more reps and wish you played longer,” Bartels said. “But it was fun to get out there and put points on the board. Joe did a great job. He sustained drives all through the game. I thought I played pretty well.”

Nelson is the sports editor for the Grand Forks Herald