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Hendrickson has second straight big game for UND

SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- Marcus Hendrickson's expectations for this season started much like his game began Saturday night against San Diego State. Very modest.

However, the University of North Dakota senior quarterback responded and continued his amazing start to the season in a narrow 49-41 loss to the Aztecs.

Hendrickson, starting just the second game this season and his career at quarterback, threw for 434 yards and four touchdowns on Saturday, and now has thrown for 823 yards and 12 scores this season.

A native of Perham, Minn., Hendrickson was named the National Performer of the Week and Quarterback of the Week by College Football Performance Awards after the Fighting Sioux's 45-37 victory over Portland State Sept. 8.

He was also selected the ROOT SPORTS Big Sky Co-Offensive Player of the Week, The Sports Network Co-Offensive Player of the Week and a National All-Star by The College Sporting News.

Not bad for a player who entered the season as the backup quarterback prior to an injury to senior Braden Hanson, and spent parts of the previous three seasons at wide receiver.

"I was accepting my role (to start the season), and I didn't know what it was going to be," Hendrickson said. "The first game they said they were going to sprinkle me in with a little bit of option (plays). So I didn't know. Then I got my opportunity."

And he's taken full advantage.

Hendrickson began Saturday's game against SDSU by throwing an interception for a touchdown on his very first pass.

On the next possession, he bobbled a shotgun snap on third down that led to a UND to punt.

But from that point on, Hendrickson found his groove and shredded an Aztec defense that held the University of Washington to 21 points and stuffed Army for just seven in its two previous games.

Still, he wouldn't say anything from the past two weeks has come as a complete surprise.

"You know, I've been in this program for four years," he said. "So yeah, it's surprising with the offensive numbers we're putting up, but in a way, I kind of expected it. We gameplan to exploit every weakness and we're doing a great job of that. Week to week, we've got to keep it up. It's a long season.

"It was (hard changing positions), but after I got settled after my position change, I got back into it. I've just been practicing, preparing, knowing my role and just focusing on myself and how I can better the team."

Although it's unknown what will happen if Hanson is able to return from injury, UND coach Chris Mussman acknowledged he's been pleased with Hendrickson's play the last two weeks.

"Our ability to throw the ball right now has surprised me," Mussman said. "I knew we were better than what we have been in the past, but for the past two weeks we've been great.

"Marcus is playing extremely well."

Junior wide receiver Greg Hardin, who caught three touchdown passes from Hendrickson Saturday and six total the past two games, said the two of them have been preparing a long time for this.

"We put the work in together over the summer and even over the offseason," he said. "So it's not a surprise to me."

As he continues through his senior season, Hendrickson said there is a special reason why he often thinks about Perham.

His nephew Hudson Owen Hendrickson is eight-months-old, and along with the rest of his family, Marcus can't wait to make a return visit.

"I miss my family, my brothers, mom and dad," Hendrickson said. "I miss those guys, but I've got a nephew now and he's starting that stage to walk and say words, so I wish I could be there to see him.

"But that time will come."

He's just got a few more touchdowns to throw until then.