Spotlight on QB Bradley as Sioux open football season tonight

GRAND FORKS - Joey Bradley's introduction to North Dakota came through the movie "Fargo." Ironically, it also came on the day he first heard about University of North Dakota football.

GRAND FORKS - Joey Bradley's introduction to North Dakota came through the movie "Fargo." Ironically, it also came on the day he first heard about University of North Dakota football.

Less than a year ago, UND was not on Joey Bradley's radar. Far from it.

But things changed quickly and now Bradley - the starting Sioux quarterback - finds himself in the spotlight tonight in UND's season opener against Drake at the Alerus Center.

The path to UND began shortly after the Diablo Valley College football player attended his film class late last fall in Pleasant Hill, Calif.

"Literally, the day (assistant) coach (Tim) Belmore called me we had watched the movie 'Fargo' in class," Bradley said. "That's what popped into my head; the accent and things like that.


"I didn't know too much about North Dakota. So, I looked on the website and then I realized how legitimate things are out here. I was pretty excited."

Bradley visited UND on Jan. 3. On Jan. 9, he committed to the Sioux and enrolled at UND a few days later. Last week, he was named UND's starting quarterback, completing a whirlwind eight months for the junior-college transfer.

Tonight, he'll lead a team into the final season of a five-year transition to Division I football.

Bradley came into fall camp No. 2 on the depth chart behind Brent Goska, who started a handful of games last season.

Bradley's quick release and ability to throw downfield were two of his strengths in camp, traits that helped earn him the role as starting quarterback.

Bradley, however, is the first to admit he has a lot to prove. But UND enters tonight's game with a handful of other questions as well. While the quarterback position is at the top of the list, other UND concerns focus on finding a complement to Greg Hardin at wide receiver and the depth in the secondary.

But Bradley is ready to go. After throwing for 3,636 yards and 33 touchdowns last season at Diablo, he wants to take his game to another level.

And the Issaquah, Wash., native doesn't regret his decision to watch "Fargo," take recruiting calls from UND and, finally, move to Grand Forks.


"I came here with an open mind," Bradley said. "I have no regrets."

And North Dakota's weather, while not on par with California's sunny days and warm temperatures, doesn't bother Bradley, either.

"The weather wasn't such a big deal to me," he said. "But I didn't know winter would last into March."

Drake experienced

Drake was 7-4 overall last season, finishing third in the Pioneer League with a 6-2 record. The Bulldogs again are picked to finish third this season.

Drake returns 17 starters from last season, 10 on offense.

The offense is led by quarterback Mike Piatkowski, who threw for 1,854 yards and 15 touchdowns last season.

"Drake is a well-coached team and I know this is coach speak, but I like how they play," UND coach Chris Mussman said. "They're not complicated in the sense that you'll get a lot of different things.


"But they do what they do very well. They know where the ball needs to go offensively. Their quarterback is very good and you'll have a tough time getting hits on him. The ball will be out of his hands quickly."

Piatkowski's top receiver will be Drew Blackmon, who caught 41 passes for 535 yards last season.

Defensively, the Bulldogs are led by senior linebacker Tyler Moorhead, who had 62 tackles and was a first-team all-Pioneer League selection.

Team chemistry

Coaches always talk about team chemistry. Drake perhaps has as much team chemistry as any football program after its trip to Africa in May.

Drake participated in the 2011 Global Kilimanjaro Bowl in Tanzania, where the Bulldogs beat a team from Mexico 17-7.

While in Africa, Drake players climbed 19,340 feet to the peak of the famous Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Drake's theme for the 2011 season is "Tupande Kileleni," a Swahili term that means "Let's climb to the summit."


That theme applies to a long college football season, said Drake coach Chris Creighton, now in his fourth season.

True freshmen

In a perfect world, Mussman said he would like to redshirt all true freshmen this season.

But that likely won't happen.

True freshman running back Jer Garmen will play tonight in the backfield and perhaps on some special teams.

Two other true freshmen may have their redshirt lifted as well.

H-back Zach Adler may play, while cornerback Dwayne Brown also may see the field.

Brown may be more likely to play than Adler as UND's depth at cornerback is thin due to Chavon Mackey's two-game suspension to start the season.


Nelson is the sports editor for the Grand Forks Herald

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