Fourth-ranked Weber holds off UND late, escapes 35-30

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (UND Athletics) -- Weber State possessed the ball for over 36 minutes, including 11-and-a-half minutes of the fourth quarter alone en route to a 35-30 win over North Dakota at the Alerus Center Saturday. UND is among the nation's leaders in time of possession, but the Wildcats grabbed a late 35-23 lead and held on, converting on 5-of-8 third-down opportunities in the second half.

UND had some late life despite trailing by 12 with three minutes to go as the Fighting Hawks forced a long field goal try to stall a WSU drive that had already consumed six-plus minutes. Deion Harris came in front the left side and blocked the 46-yard attempt and Jaxson Turner scooped it up after a few bounces. After he was able to be tackled, Turner flung the ball to an awaiting Donnell Rodgers who raced it ahead 60 yards for a touchdown and a 35-30 score.

North Dakota got a high-bouncing kick on the onsides attempt, but it drifted out of bounds and Weber State took control with 2:56 to play. The Fighting Hawks would get one final drive with the ball deep in Wildcat territory and no timeouts remaining but Nate Ketteringham scrambled on the game's final play, being forced out of bounds to end the game.

Weber State was able to strike first when Jake Constantine ran it in from eight yards out with 2:25 to go in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead. The Wildcats forced a quick 3-and-out and then doubled their lead on a 69-yard pass and catch by Darryl Denby, his first of two touchdown receptions on the game.

North Dakota would respond, however, as Evan Holm returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, UND's first non-offensive score this season.

Later in the period, Nate Ketteringham found Garett Maag in the end zone from 20 yards out to tie the score. But, neither team played it conservatively as the half drew to a close. Weber State picked off Ketteringham and cashed it in for a 15-yard touchdown reception to Justin Malone with just 43 seconds left. UND, though, didn't run out the clock, instead marched 70 yards in just four plays to score before the half ended.

Ketteringham hit Maag with a 45-yard completion to start the drive then finished it with a laser to Noah Wanzek, who laid out to make a spectacular catch for a 21-20 score at the break. The point after hit the right upright, but North Dakota would get the ball back to start the second half, attempting to take its first lead. The Fighting Hawks would, indeed, move in front on the first drive, moving 72 yards on nine plays and getting a 29-yard Brady Leach field goal to go ahead, 23-21.

Weber State reclaimed the lead on another Denby scoring reception to make it 28-23 midway through the third. Josh Davis, who finished with 107 yards rushing, got into the endzone from three yards out to eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark and give the Wildcats a 35-23 advantage early in the fourth.

Ketteringham avoided pressure and side-stepped would-be tacklers to buy time and find Luke Fielder for a 22-yard reception on the ensuing drive but it would stall and North Dakota would be forced into its sixth punt of the afternoon. Weber State was able to melt off nearly seven minutes on that drive to keep the UND offense on the sidelines.

The big special teams plays helped keep hope alive for a comeback, both Holm's kickoff return and Rodgers' blocked kick return but Weber's Jake Constantine was solid in the pocket, avoiding a single sack and delivering three passing touchdowns with 27 completions on 41 attempts without an interception.

Ketteringham held his own with a 16-for-29 performance and two touchdowns with one interception, finding Wanzek a career-high 10 times for 111 yards, his fifth 100-yard receiving game of his career. His touchdown reception late in the first half was his 13th of his career, already just three shy of cracking the school's top 10 list in that category.

North Dakota, who had run for 480 yards a week earlier at Sacramento State, managed just 105 yards on 28 attempts with James Johannessonnetting 42 in the loss.

Rodgers paced the UND defense with 10 total tackles and the blocked kick for a score. Noah Larson and Jaxson Turner each added nine tackles.

UND (5-3) heads to Moscow, Idaho next week to battle new Big Sky Conference member Idaho, who has returned to the FCS level from the FBS ranks. Kickoff is set for 4:00 p.m. Central.

*UND's all-time winningest head coach, Roger Thomas, flipped the coin to start the game.
*Legendary high school head coach Fred Fridley (321 wins, nine state titles at Watford City) was honored during the game.
*North Dakota's last kickoff for TD also came against Weber State on Oct. 22, 2016 as John Santiago returned one 100 yards.
*UND scored its first two non-offensive TDs of the season (KO return, block FG return)
*Wanzek (10) accounted for the bulk of Ketteringham's completions (16).
*It was Wanzek's fifth career 100-yard receiving game.
*Maag's TD was the third of his young career.