Weber State Holds on to Defeat No. 20/24 North Dakota, 38-31

Published: Nov. 27, 2022 at 11:05 AM CST
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OGDEN, Utah – No. 20/24 North Dakota fell 38-31 to No. 9/10 Weber State in the opening round of the FCS Playoffs on Saturday afternoon. Despite trailing 24-0 late in the first half, the Fighting Hawks clawed their way back within seven late but were not able to overcome the early deficit.

UND trailed 31-14 at intermission and opened the second half with a 60-yard kickoff return from Red Wilson. The Fighting Hawks marched all the way down to the WSU 6 before settling for a 23-yard field goal from the leg of Brady Stevens to trim the deficit to 31-17 early in the third quarter.

Weber State responded less than four minutes later, when Josh Davis scored his second rushing touchdown of the afternoon, this time from two yards out. North Dakota responded with an 80-yard touchdown drive, capped by a Schuster seven-yard pass to Adam Zavalney to make it 38-24 in the early moments of the final stanza.

On its next possession, North Dakota would go 11 plays and 74 yards over 3:19, finishing the drive with a four-yard touchdown pass from Schuster to Jack Wright to cut the deficit to 38-31 with 3:04 remaining.

North Dakota’s defense held tough and got the offense the ball back at their own 16 yard-line with 1:49 left in the game for a chance to tie it. Schuster connected with Garett Maag for a 13-yard completion on the first play of the drive to get the ball to the UND 29. A sack on the following play and three straight incompletions allowed Weber State to escape with the 38-31 victory.

Schuster finished the game 23-for-43 for 183 yards and three touchdowns. He was only sacked once in the contest. Tyler Hoosman put an exclamation mark on his UND career, rushing 14 times for 138 yards, including a 72-yard scamper that led to a touchdown before halftime. With the 138 yards on the afternoon, Hoosman went over 1,000 yards rushing this season and finished with 1,023 yards on the ground as a Fighting Hawk. Maag was Schuster’s favorite target, hauling in five grabs for 63 yards.

Zavalney was next with three catches for 26 yards, including the late touchdown grab. Sixteen different Hawks had at least one tackle, led by Kason Kelley with 15 takedowns and a sack. Devon Krzanowski was the next most productive Fighting Hawk defensively with 11 tackles. In the game, North Dakota had 338 yards of offense, with 204 on the ground and 184 through the air. Comparatively, Weber State finished with 440 yards total, rushing for 330 of them and passing for the other 110. Weber State held a 7-0 edge on the scoreboard at the end of the first quarter.

The Wildcats scored on their second possession, which started at their own six yard-line. WSU went nine plays and 94 yards over the next 4:11, scoring on a two-yard scamper from running back Dontae McMillan to lead 7-0 with 5:01 left in the quarter. The touchdown was setup by a 46-yard pass from Bronson Barron to Jon Christensen. On the first play of the second quarter, Kyle Thompson increased Weber State’s lead to 10-0 with a 40-yard field goal. The Wildcats would push their lead to 24-0 with 4:50 left before halftime, scoring on a 30-yard run from Josh Davis and later finding the end zone again this time with a 39-yard rush from Damon Bankston. North Dakota found the end zone for the first time of the afternoon with 3:52 left in the half, when a Schuster pass was ruled a fumble and Isaiah Smith picked it up and sprinted 63-yards for the touchdown to trim the deficit to 24-7.

The Fighting Hawks held the Wildcats to fourth down with less than a minute to go before intermission, but on fourth down, Barron connected with Hayden Meacham for the 25-yard score to bring the tally to 31-7. Hoosman jumpstarted the next UND drive, finding a hole and scampering 72-yards down to the WSU 5. On the next play, NoDak scored on a five-yard pass from Schuster to Jaden Norby and the Hawks went into the break trailing 31-14.

UND concludes its season with a 7-5 overall record, while WSU advances to play at No. 4 seed Montana State next Saturday. The Wildcats now have a 10-2 record on the season.