Leave it to one of the most electric players in the Football Championship Subdivision to start North Dakota's 2013 season with a bang. All-American wide receiver Greg Hardin hauled in a 75-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Bartels on UND's first play and the Green and White rolled from there, posting a 69-10 victory over Valparaiso on Thursday.
For Bartels, that opening completion was on his first collegiate snap as the redshirt freshman finished the game 10-for-12 for 212 yards. He split reps with classmate Joe Mollberg, who was also efficient in his first career action, going 6-for-7 for 74 yards.
The rookie duo combined to go 16-for-19 for 286 yards in leading UND to its highest-point total since moving the Division I level. The last time UND scored that many points was in a 69-0 blanking of Morningside in 1972.
Hardin's 75-yard touchdown reception was the only one of nine scored by UND on the night that came through the air as the ground game amassed six rushing scores and 255 yards. The special teams got in the scoring act as well, adding a pair of touchdowns in what was the 24th straight season-opening win at home.
Senior Jake Miller and junior Adam Shaugabay each had three rushing scores to pace the ground attack that helped stake UND to a 35-0 lead at halftime. Miller finished with 109 rushing yards, while Shaugabay scored on three of his five carries, finishing with 16 yards.
Hardin found the end zone again to start the second half, this time taking Valparaiso's kickoff back 90 yards to put a stamp on his night. He finished with five catches for 163 yards and 253 all-purpose yards. The 90-yard scoring play was the second kickoff return for a touchdown of his career.
Sophomore Kenny Golladay shared the team lead in receptions with Hardin, netting 58 yards on his five receptions. Golladay also got into the scoring act on special teams, returning the first punt of his career 64 yards in the opening quarter.
Valpo snapped the shutout in the third quarter after junior Jer Garman muffed a punt in UND territory. The Crusaders connected on a 36-yard field goal and would late add a touchdown on a 41-yard touchdown reception by Fred Gadney.
The defense did not budge much before and after, yielding only 81 yards on the ground and 93 more in the air.
Shaugabay and placekicker Zeb Miller would cap the scoring in the fourth quarter. The Warroad native scored on runs of six and two yards in the final stanza, while Miller connected on his first two field goals of the season from 40 and 34 yards, respectively.
UND will return to action next Saturday at home vs. No. 8 South Dakota State in the Potato Bowl. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.