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College football: Bulldogs test their mettle in annual spring game

Graetz shows flashes but Jensen gets last laugh on brutal day for throwing the football at Malosky Stadium.

Minnesota Duluth football team holds annual Maroon and White game at Malosky Stadium
Jonny Jensen (9) intercepts the ball during the Minnesota Duluth annual spring football Maroon and White game at Malosky Stadium on Friday, April 22, 2022 in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — Most college football players are fortunate to have something to brag about after a spring game, but Minnesota Duluth defensive back Jonny Jensen has a handful of things to be proud of after the Bulldogs’ annual Maroon-White Spring Game Friday at Malosky Stadium.

Jensen not only intercepted quarterback Logan Graetz twice, after the first one, he waltzed into the end zone showboating while UMD offensive lineman Trey Cahalan, a 6-foot-2, 317-pounder who is also his roommate, in an act of futility, desperately tried to catch him.

Jensen was officially ruled down on the play, but that interception set up the lone score of the game — Curtis Cox’s 42-yard field goal — as the Maroon topped the White 3-0 on a blustery 35-degree day with 30 mph wind gusts.

Both of Jensen’s interceptions were tipped, one by Marcus Shepley and the other by Elijah Wilson.

Minnesota Duluth football team holds annual Maroon and White game at Malosky Stadium
Wide receiver Tyler Seymour catches the ball against Eyoel Desalegn (20) during the Minnesota Duluth annual spring football Maroon and White game at Malosky Stadium on Friday, April 22, 2022 in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

“I have to give a lot of credit to them, because they are the ones who made the plays, tipping it right to me,” Jensen said. “I was in the right place at the right time.”

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Jensen certainly knew what to do with it, however.

“They were calling it dead, but I would have scored, for sure, if it was a real game,” he said. “I told Trey if I got an interception I was going to let him hear about it. That’s why he came out to try to make the tackle, but there was no chance he was going to catch me. So I have bragging rights on him and Logan.”

Jensen and Graetz share the same area of the locker room, so yes, Graetz is sure to hear about it.

Graetz’s two interceptions are more than Graetz had all last season in relief of starter John Larson, but Graetz certainly showed enough last fall, and Friday, to understand why the Bulldogs are high on the transfer from Football Championship Subdivision power North Dakota State.

“I loved my time out there but really just wanted to be on the playing field,” Graetz said. “I was behind some really good guys, Trey Lance (now in the NFL), Zeb Noland, and now Cam Miller, a year younger than me, but a national championship quarterback. Just great guys in general but I wanted to get on the field. Everyone understands it nowadays. Kids just want to play.”

Minnesota Duluth football team holds annual Maroon and White game at Malosky Stadium
Quarterback Nate Elms (13) runs with the ball during the Minnesota Duluth annual spring football Maroon and White game at Malosky Stadium on Friday, April 22, 2022 in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

UMD was the first school to offer Graetz a scholarship when he was in high school in River Falls, Wisconsin.

“It was after a summer camp one day; I remember it well,” Graetz said.

Last fall, Graetz completed 62 of 104 passes for 813 yards, with nine touchdowns to just one interception for the Bulldogs before separating his shoulder and suffering a thumb injury against Bemidji State, ending his season.

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“It was great to get out there, get some experience, get on the field and play a little bit. It was a little bit different when guys are coming at you live,” Graetz said, laughing.

Quarterbacks aren’t live in spring ball, so whenever a defender gets anywhere close to them the play is blown dead, but it’s still good game experience.

Graetz connected on some nice passes, including a 27-yarder to Noah Skifton, a long throw on the run to Byron Bynum and a nice pass over the middle to Greenway High School product Dylan DeChampeau.

Minnesota Duluth football team holds annual Maroon and White game at Malosky Stadium
Quarterback Logan Graetz (4) passes the ball during the Minnesota Duluth annual spring football Maroon and White game at Malosky Stadium on Friday, April 22, 2022 in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

“It was a fun time, windy, but it was doable,” Graetz said. “Just getting out there with the guys, being with them in the conditions and game-like scenarios, was good. We just go out there with the mindset that we can’t control what happens weather-wise so we just try to adapt.”

UMD coach Curt Wiese said it wasn’t just tough evaluating the passing game on Friday, but all spring.

“The weather wasn’t great, but it hasn’t been all spring,” he said. “We got it in. We didn’t have rain for the most part. They had fun playing football today, and that should be what it’s all about.”

After the players cleared the field, there was nobody left, except for three.

In a hilarious scene reminiscent of the bishop golfing scene in the comedy classic “Caddyshack,” Gary Holquist, UMD senior development officer, gamely held a microphone for a local television reporter while she interviewed Wiese near midfield while the three of them were buffeted by the wind and rain.

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Later, back inside and warm, Holquist had a sense of humor about it.

“These are the things I get to do,” Holquist said, laughing.

Minnesota Duluth football team holds annual Maroon and White game at Malosky Stadium
Kicker Curtis Cox (81) kicks the ball during the Minnesota Duluth annual spring football Maroon and White game at Malosky Stadium on Friday, April 22, 2022 in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
Minnesota Duluth football team holds annual Maroon and White game at Malosky Stadium
Running back Levon Bellamy (6) rushes the ball during the Minnesota Duluth annual spring football Maroon and White game at Malosky Stadium on Friday, April 22, 2022 in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
Minnesota Duluth football team holds annual Maroon and White game at Malosky Stadium
Running back Wade Sullivan (26) runs the ball during the Minnesota Duluth annual spring football Maroon and White game at Malosky Stadium on Friday, April 22, 2022 in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
Minnesota Duluth football team holds annual Maroon and White game at Malosky Stadium
Running back Chamere Thomas (2) rushes the ball during the Minnesota Duluth annual spring football Maroon and White game at Malosky Stadium on Friday, April 22, 2022 in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
Minnesota Duluth football team holds annual Maroon and White game at Malosky Stadium
Quarterback Kyle Walljasper (12) passes the ball during the Minnesota Duluth annual spring football Maroon and White game at Malosky Stadium on Friday, April 22, 2022 in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
Minnesota Duluth football team holds annual Maroon and White game at Malosky Stadium
Noah Skifton (3) runs with the ball during the Minnesota Duluth annual spring football Maroon and White game at Malosky Stadium on Friday, April 22, 2022 in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at jnowacki@duluthnews.com or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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