College football: Graetz comes to the rescue as UMD fends off Southwest Minnesota in season opener
Backup quarterback throws for 230 yards and three touchdowns after starter Garrett Olson gets dinged up.
DULUTH — Minnesota Duluth quarterback Logan Graetz injured his throwing hand but tried to gut it out last year against Bemidji State.
It didn’t go well.
“I played one play without a thumb basically,” Graetz explained.
Graetz fumbled the football and then separated his shoulder in the melee that followed. Adding even more insult to injury, UMD lost to the Beavers at home for the first time since World War II.
After all that, coming into a football game as a backup was no sweat.
Graetz looked great in leading the Bulldogs to a 31-21 victory over Southwest Minnesota State in their season opener Thursday night before 3,576 at Malosky Stadium, completing 16 of 24 passes for 230 yards and three touchdowns.
The NSIC contest started with temperatures in the mid-80s and Graetz on the sideline.
“I had a baseball cap on, just standing and looking around, and then everyone was yelling my name,” Graetz said. “I was like, ‘What’s up?’ They said, ‘You’re going in. Start throwing right now.’ And I was just like, ‘OK.’”
Graetz was filling in for starter Garrett Olson, who helped UMD score on its opening drive but got rolled up on and pulled from the game in a precautionary measure.
“It was something minor, and we’ll figure it out over the weekend,” Graetz said of the injury to Olson. “It was nothing crazy. It’s early in the year and we didn’t want to push it.”
Graetz’s appearance on UMD’s second drive was so seamless that it appeared by design, like the Bulldogs planned on platooning two QBs for the game. Graetz capped the drive by finding Kurtis Weigand in the back of the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown reception.
UMD expected to use multiple quarterbacks this fall but not like this … the Bulldogs wound up using three Thursday as even Graetz came out for a play and Nate Elmes saw his first collegiate action.
“Being a backup quarterback during a game, anything can happen,” said Graetz, who started four games for UMD in 2021 after transferring from FCS power North Dakota State. “You’ve got to be ready to go when your name’s called.”
UMD led 21-7 at the half before Southwest Minnesota State — which went 2-9 in 2021 — came back with a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter to tie it 21-21. The Mustangs took advantage of a muffed punt and got 25 carries, 156 yards and two touchdowns from senior running back Jesse Sherwood.
“I’m just proud of how these kids battled,” said Southwest Minnesota coach Scott Underwood, who coached St. Cloud State from 2008 to 2019. “When you look at the lack of the seniority that we have compared to where they’re at, we came out and fought as hard as we could. We just gave up some big plays, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort. It’ll just take a little while.”
Southwest Minnesota State only had a pair of senior starters on offense and a pair of defense while the Bulldogs have a veteran group, in particular on offense.
UMD righted the ship when the 6-foot-4, 214-pound Graetz found senior Noah Skifton, who made a terrific play on the ball for a 43-yard touchdown reception to put the Bulldogs up 28-21 with 12:35 remaining.
Curt Cox added a 28-yard field goal, Wade Sullivan rushed 26 times for 121 yards and Dayvia Gbor added a pair of interceptions to help secure UMD’s win.
“I was proud of Logan Graetz,” UMD coach Curt Wiese said. “He didn’t get named the starter after he had a good fall camp, but rather than hanging his head and pouting about not being the starter he stepped up tonight and played a really good football game.”
After the way last year ended, Graetz will take it.
“It’s really awesome to be back healthy,” Graetz said. “Both Garrett and I have good chemistry with the wide receivers. I’ve started games before and knew the guys were behind me.”