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Mollberg fighting for UND starting QB duties

Joe Mollberg (14) throws during one of UND’s football practices. Mollberg and Ryan Bartels are in the midst of a preseason battle for starting QB duties. FORUM NEWS SERVICE

Joe Mollberg and Ryan Bartels are entering their third fall camp at UND.

Since their arrival as true freshmen, it’s been hard to separate the two.

Both have done enough — in practices and in games last season as redshirt freshmen — to be considered for the No. 1 quarterback at UND this season as the program prepares for its third year in the Big Sky Conference.

Like the 2013 fall camp, however, a decision on who starts the opener Aug. 28 at San Jose State likely won’t be made until the final days before the game.

They’re that close.

Both also know that the quarterback situation will be the most watched development during fall camp. And they expect that, as both had their ups and downs last season.

“The quarterback and position battles start over again,” said Bartels. “It’s good.

“It keeps the competition going and that’s what you want.”

Mollberg also is aware of what’s at stake as he prepares to make his case for the starting job.

“It’s back to the grind,” said the sophomore from Detroit Lakes. “One of us definitely is going to separate this fall. I’m excited.

“I hope I’m the guy. I feel comfortable. I worked hard all summer. I’m ready to go. I’m ready to play and compete in the Big Sky.”

In 2013, both quarterbacks played significantly.

Mollberg, the starter at the beginning of the season, started seven games, completing 114 of 241 passes for 1,729 yards and seven touchdowns.

He was intercepted 13 times and finished the season with a quarterback efficiency rating of 117.6.

Bartels started four games. He completed 116 of 190 passes for 1,396 yards and eight touchdowns.

The Sycamore, Ill., sophomore was intercepted six times and his efficiency rating ended at 130.3.

 UND completed its second practice of fall camp Sunday. It wasn’t much different than Saturday’s opener.

As the camp progresses, the quarterback competition likely will intensify. And that’s to be expected.

The highs and lows of last season are in the past, as both realize.

“We’ve both done our thing,” said Mollberg. “We both struggled as freshmen.

“But we both want to be here and we both want what’s best for the team.”

Added Bartels: “You can’t dwell on the past. (Camp) has been fun so far. They’ve been getting after us and that’s what we need right now.”

Wayne Nelson
Nelson is the sports editor of the Herald
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