A dominating defensive effort and a timely big play by a seldom-used wide receiver propelled No. 22 North Dakota past UC Davis 14-7 in a Great West Conference tilt at Aggie Stadium on Saturday. Junior Jon Heimler (Colfax, Wis.) was in for only play and he made it count, hauling in a nine-yard pass for the game-winning score midway through the fourth quarter.
Heimler's first career catch was set up by one of three turnovers forced by a Sioux defense that yielded only 228 yards in the contest. The unit sacked UC Davis quarterback Randy Wright three times, caused four fumbles and Mitch Kudrna (Dickinson, N.D.) corralled his second interception of the season.
"Our kids believe they are going to win and that is half the battle," UND head coach Chris Mussman said. "We didn't let those momentum shifts get us too much. And, how about Jon Heimler - at a critical time, he goes in and makes a play. That is what you need - guys to make plays at the right time."
The victory for UND (7-3, 2-1 GWC) sets up a showdown with rival South Dakota next Saturday at the Alerus Center with a share of the Great West Conference title on the line. Both teams have two wins in league and the winner will share the league crown with Cal Poly.
Goska finished 16-for-30 for 140 yards and two touchdowns. His first scoring strike came on the opening possession when he marched the team down the field on an eight-play, 72-yard drive that was capped by a 12-yard reception by Blair Townsend (Coon Rapids, Minn.).
The UND offense would struggle after that in a game that featured 17 punts between the two squads. The Sioux managed just 232 yards of total offense and were held to 92 rushing yards.
"Our defense played lights out," Goska said. "They always find a way to keep us in the game and they were awesome today."
The Aggies' offense was equally ineffective, scoring their lone touchdown after being set up at the UND 28-yard line following a muffed punt. The 18-yard touchdown run by Marquis Nicolis would make it a 7-7 contest at halftime.
Wright went 15-for-30 through the air for 151 yards, but left the game with an injury on what was turning into a potential game-tying touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter.
He was hit after a first-down completion moved the ball into UND territory at the 40-yard line. Reserve Austin Heyworth came in for Wright, but threw four straight incompletions to turn the ball over on downs and securing the second three-game winning streak of the season for the Sioux.
Kickoff between the Fighting Sioux and Coyotes next Saturday is at 1 p.m.