Fighting Hawks Hold Off Wildcats, 34-31

Published: Oct. 31, 2022 at 7:17 PM CDT
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GRAND FORKS, N.D. (UND Athletics) - In a game where neither team led by more than 10 points, No. 23 North Dakota (5-3) defeated Abilene Christian (5-3), 34-31, in non-conference play inside the Alerus Center on Saturday evening.

The Fighting Hawks saw their lead trimmed to 34-31 with 7:48 left to play following a one-yard touchdown run from the Wildcats. The North Dakota offensive line played a large role in the final drive, allowing the Fighting Hawks to pick up first downs twice on third-and-short with quarterback sneaks from Quincy Vaughn. UND made a statement with its final drive, gaining 49 yards on the ground, chewing up 7:48 of clock and picking up four first downs to earn the victory.

Tyler Hoosman was involved in five rushing plays on the final drive, gaining 30 yards in that drive alone. In the game, he finished as the top rusher, piling up 112 yards on 20 carries to go with two scores. It was his fourth 100-yard rushing game of his career.

In the passing game, Tommy Schuster went 23-for-32 for 292 yards and two touchdowns. His top receiver was Bo Belquist, who hauled in seven grabs for 100 yards and a touchdown.

Jack Wright and Caden Dennis were the next most productive UND receivers, each finishing with two grabs for 53 and 40 yards, respectfully.

Wyatt Pedigo led UND defensively with eight tackles. Devon Krzanowski was next in tackles with five (four of them being solo) to go with a sack.

Kadon Kauppinen and Malachi Buckner both picked off the Wildcats once. Buckner returned his interception for 16 yards, giving UND the ball deep in ACU territory, which eventually led to a touchdown to put the Fighting Hawks up 34-24 early in the fourth quarter.

In the game, North Dakota finished with 463 yards of offense, compared to Abilene Christian gaining 361 offensive yards. UND picked up 292 yards through the air and 171 yards on the ground, while ACU earned 239 yards passing and 122 yards rushing. The Fighting Hawk defense played a large role in the victory, helping North Dakota finish the game +2.0 in turnovers with two interceptions.

The Wildcats struck first in the opening quarter, going seven plays and 65 yards, capped by a five-yard touchdown pass from Maverick McIvor to Kobe Clark. The next possession for North Dakota, it made it down to the ACU 3 before having to settle for a 20-yard field goal from the leg of Brady Stevens to trim the deficit to 7-3.

The Fighting Hawks claimed the 10-7 lead in the opening minutes of the second quarter, going seven plays and 72 yards before Schuster found Belquist for the four-yard touchdown pass.

Neither team would score again until 3:46 left before halftime when Abilene Christian responded with an 11-yard touchdown pass from McIvor to Tristan Golightly to go up 14-10.

North Dakota went to work from its own 25 right away on the next possession, picking up three consecutive first downs with a 15-yard completion to Marcus Preston, a 12-yard grab by Garett Maag and then a 13-yard rush from Red Wilson to get the ball down to the ACU 48. Later in the drive the Hawks made it to the Wildcat 15 yard-line with a 20-yard pass from Schuster to Isaiah Smith. The drive was capped with Schuster finding Maag open in the back of the end zone for the four-yard touchdown reception to put UND back up 17-14.

The Fighting Hawk defense forced a three-and-out to give the offense the ball back at its own 47 with 13 seconds left. Schuster was poised and found Jack Wright for the 34-yard completion to get the ball down to the ACU 19 with seven seconds left on the clock. Stevens connected on a 34-yarder on the next play to put UND up 20-14 at the break.

The early moments of the second half started with a Cade Peterson 50-yard punt that pinned the Wildcats at their own one. ACU earned 87 yards over the next 11 plays and made a 30-yard field goal to get within three at 20-17 with 5:40 left in the third quarter.

On the following NoDak possession, the Fighting Hawks picked up chunk plays with a 19-yard pass to Wright and a 20-yard rush by Hoosman to get the ball down to the ACU 46. A few plays later, Schuster found Dennis for a 31-yard gain to give the Hawks first and goal from the ACU 2. On the next play, Hoosman drove over the pile for the two-yard score to allow UND to go up 27-17.

Abilene Christian responded quickly, starting at the UND 4 after a 91-yard kick return from Davion Johnson. Following two penalties later in the drive, ACU had third and goal from the UND 12 before converting for a touchdown on a pass from McIvor to Blayne Taylor to get back within three at 27-24 with 1:13 left in the third quarter.

North Dakota punted in its next possession and ACU had the ball at its own 8. On second down, the Wildcats decided to go deep on a pass play that was intercepted by Buckner and returned 16 yards all the way down to the ACU 11. Four plays later, the Fighting Hawks would go up 34-24 with a five-yard touchdown scamper from Hoosman.

On the next ACU possession, Abilene Christian started at its own 43 and went five plays and 57 yards, capped by a Royvaughn Banks Jr. touchdown to cut the lead to 34-31 with 7:48 left in the game. ACU’s touchdown drive took just under two minutes.

North Dakota held onto the ball for the final 7:48, piling up 49 yards on 13 plays on its way to the victory. The Fighting Hawks picked up four first downs, with two of them coming on third-and-short.