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UND showcases running back passing game during Spring Game

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GRAND FORKS—With the University of North Dakota defense claiming the edge over the offense during the Fighting Hawks' annual spring game at High Performance Center on Friday night, only two pass plays went for more than 20 yards.

 

But for UND's offensive progression, there was a silver lining in the limited passing attack.

Both long pass plays went to running backs, an area of emphasis this spring that was on display in front of an estimated 850 fans.

Andrew Zimmerman hit running back Brady Oliveira underneath for a 20-yard pickup and Nate Ketteringham connected with James Johannesson on a wheel route down the sideline for a 38-yard gain.

A year ago, UND completed just 17 passes to the running back trio of John Santiago, Oliveira and Johannesson.

 

"We want to be a little more diverse," UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. "We think they're good players and getting them the ball in space is a good thing."

UND's running backs are the most established position group in the program, with Santiago and Oliveira having garnered all-Big Sky Conference honors in their careers and Johannesson showing promise a year ago after transferring from the University of Minnesota.

"I think we have a lot of skill in that room, so I think you want to get the ball in your skilled players' hands," Oliveira said. "Implementing more of a passing game and letting us catch some balls will be a weapon for our team and open up our whole passing game."

Said offensive coordinator Paul Rudolph: "That was one thing we're trying to get better at—getting the backs more involved. We're going to keep working on it."

 

As a whole, Rudolph felt the offensive line started slow—a group playing without expected starter Nate Nguon, who sat out with an injury.

The beneficiaries were linebacker Austin Gordon and defensive lineman Austin Cieslak. Both players were credited with two sacks.

The scrimmage featured roughly 60 plays. Gordon, who is in his first season on defense after transitioning from running back, tied with junior college transfer safety Hayden Galvin for the team lead with four tackles.

Johannesson scored the lone touchdown of the scrimmage when he plunged in from a yard out during a goal line situation.

Sophomore linebacker Jake Geier grabbed the lone interception of the scrimmage when he picked off a Ketteringham pass after a failed play-action pass.

 

Quarterback Brock Boltmann took a majority of the snaps under center, finishing 8-for-13 passing for 70 yards. Ketteringham was 6-for-8 for 78 yards. Zimmerman was 2-for-8 for 19 yards.

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