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Hawks Win Defensive Slugfest, 14-7

Published: Nov. 13, 2021 at 7:48 PM CST
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GRAND FORKS, N.D. – North Dakota (5-5, 3-4 MVFC) was knotted up at 7-7 with Illinois State (4-6, 2-5 MVFC) late, but it was the Fighting Hawks earning the 14-7 victory after a game-winning touchdown with 4:26 left in the game at the Alerus Center on Saturday afternoon.

The green and white started at the ISU 41 with 6:56 remaining in the game and got into the redzone three plays later when Tommy Schuster lobbed the ball to Brock Boltmann and Boltmann made a diving catch at the ISU 6. Three plays later, North Dakota scored the touchdown when Quincy Vaughn threw a three-yard pass to Gavin Ziebarth to put UND up 14-7 with 4:26 left in the ball game. The touchdown grab was Ziebarth’s first of his collegiate career and the eventual game-winner.

Schuster led the offense, going 19-for-25 through the air for 233 yards and a touchdown. Vaughn was also in at quarterback and went 1-for-2, throwing the eventual game-winning touchdown.

Bo Belquist was the favorite target with five receptions for 50 yards, while Boltmann added four grabs for 77 yards. Jake Richter had three catches for 25 yards, including his nine-yard touchdown grab. Ziebarth also had a touchdown catch with the three-yard game-winner.

Otis Weah led the backfield with 17 rushing attempts for 80 yards, while also netting 36 receiving yards on two catches.

Jaxson Turner got to the quarterback twice, moving him to 21 sacks in his career and making him the all-time career sacks leader at the Division I level for North Dakota.

The defense was spearheaded by Quintin Seguin and Devon Krzanowski with six and five tackles, respectively. In total, 19 Hawks had at least one tackle on the day. C.J. Siegel and Josh Navratil each had 1.0 sack apiece.

The game was even throughout, with ISU winning the turnover battle (2-1), while UND held the edge in average rushing yards (3.1-2.1). The Fighting Hawks did most of their damage through the air, racking up 236 yards to 84 yards passing for the Redbirds.

North Dakota kicked off to start the game and in the first quarter alone, Illinois State had three offensive possessions and North Dakota had two offensive possessions, with neither team finding points. The biggest highlight in the first quarter for UND was Turner sacking ISU on 3rd and 8 at the ISU 27 for a nine-yard loss, moving Turner to 20 sacks, one shy of becoming the UND Division I record holder for career sacks.

ISU’s biggest stop in the first quarter came at the 5:27 mark, when UND went for it on 4th and 1 at the ISU 40 and the Redbirds stuffed Weah for no gain.

Jalen Morrison provided a spark for the Fighting Hawks on the first play of the second quarter, getting his mitts on a 32-yard Illinois State field goal attempt to put an end to the Redbirds’ first possession in the redzone.

UND was held to a three-and-out, and then forced an ISU fumble inside Illinois State territory to give the Hawks momentum. On 2nd and 6 from the ISU 35, Navratil got to Bryce Jefferson for a strip-sack and Noah Larson recovered the fumble at the ISU 34.

A pass from Schuster to Belquist brought the Hawks down to the ISU 24, followed by a three-yard Weah rush and then a 12-yard scamper by Schuster to bring the Fighting Hawks into the redzone at the ISU 9. On the next play, Richter hauled in a nine-yard TD grab to put North Dakota up 7-0 with 10:02 remaining in the opening half.

The Hawk defense held tough and got another three-and-out on the following possession to get the offense the ball back and in good position to increase the lead with the ball at the UND 40 with 7:44 left in the opening half.

North Dakota quickly picked up a first down after three consecutive rushes and later faced 3rd and 9 at the ISU 48, before Schuster completed a 14-yard pass to Adam Zavalney to get the ball down to the ISU 34.

A 20-yard pass to Weah brought the ball down to the ISU 14 and the Hawks looked to be in good position to go up two scores, until a 17-yard pass to Garrett Maag got the ball down to the ISU 2, where the Redbirds managed to strip the ball and recover. The play came under review but was confirmed and brought up 1st and 10 for the Redbirds at their own three with 3:03 remaining.

The North Dakota defense came up big once again and got the Hawks the ball back with 1st and 10 at their own 35 with 1:23 to go in the half.

The Redbirds held the Hawks to 4th and 4 at the UND 41 but jumped offsides to give UND an automatic first down with 10 seconds left. On the next play, Schuster connected to Belquist for a 26-yard pickup down to the ISU 28 and North Dakota was able to spike the ball with two seconds left to bring out Brady Stevens for a 45-yard field goal attempt. The kick had the distance but hit the right upright and North Dakota carried the 7-0 lead into the half.

Both teams had one possession in the third quarter that made it inside each other’s territory, but neither team was able to find points. The quarter ended with ISU getting to Schuster for the second time of the afternoon, bringing up 4th and 19 at the UND 1 to begin the final stanza with a UND punt.

Cade Peterson blasted a 42-yard punt to give ISU 1st and 10 at the UND 43. Four plays later, Illinois State found the endzone on a 28-yard pass to knot the game up at 7-7 with 13:15 left in the game.

On the following possession, North Dakota marched all the way down to the ISU 11, before Illinois State stripped UND once again and started with the possession at the ISU 14.

The Fighting Hawks remained stout on defense once again, powered by Turner sacking Jackson Waring for a nine-yard loss to bring up 4th and 13 for the Redbirds at their own 11. The sack was Turner’s 21st of his career, making him the all-time career sacks leader at the Division I level for North Dakota.

The green and white started the next offensive possession at the ISU 41 and got into the redzone three plays later, when Schuster passed to Boltmann and Boltmann came up with the ball on a diving catch at the ISU 6. Three plays later, North Dakota scored the game-winning touchdown when Vaughn had a three-yard touchdown pass to Ziebarth to put UND up 14-7 with 4:26 remaining.

On the ensuing possession, Illinois State made it down to the UND 41, until Ty Shannon and Kason Kelley met at the quarterback for a 14-yard sack to bring up 4th and 22 for the Redbirds at their own 45.

The Hawks started their final drive at their own 10 yard line and Weah scampered for 40 yards on the next play to bring the ball down to the 50, forcing ISU to use up their final timeouts following UND kneel downs. There was one second left on the clock, so North Dakota took a nine-yard loss on 4th down to allow the clock to expire for the victory.

Notes: UND now has 668 wins in program history … North Dakota now leads the series 2-0 … UND is now 2-4 in MVFC games decided by single digits this season … the Fighting Hawks have now won two consecutive games by single digits … Jaxson Turner is now the all-time career sacks leader at North Dakota with 21 sacks … This is the first time UND has allowed a sack since Oct. 9 at USD.

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