Huge first half sparks 41-14 blowout of No. 22 Montana

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (UND Athletics) -- Four first-half takeaways aided host North Dakota in a 41-14 rout of 22nd-ranked Montana Saturday afternoon at the Alerus Center. UND took the ball away on Montana's first three possessions and cashed them all in for touchdowns and a quick 21-0 lead that it never relinquished.

"We were really opportunistic early in the game and that was huge," UND head coach Bubba Schweigert. "Especially that first one, we get the pick, go down there and get in in one play. I have a huge amount of respect for Montana, that's going to be a tough team. It was very key for us to take advantage of those."

The defense set the tone early. Deion Harris picked off Montana's third play from scrimmage and returned it 35 yards to set UND up inside the 10. Nate Ketteringham found Noah Wanzek for a 10-yard strike and North Dakota had a quick 7-0 advantage with the game just 70 seconds old.

On the ensuing kickoff, Ty Shannon forced a fumble and Hawks were in business once again. This time, Ketteringham punched it in from a yard out for a 14-0 lead with less than three-and-a-half minutes gone as the stage was set for one of UND's quickest starts in its FCS era. A goalline fumble for Montana on the next drive gave the ball back to UND and the Fighting Hawks would take their traditional route to the endzone this time, a nine-play, 98-yard drive that consumed 5:25, punctuated by a 3rd-and-17 strike to Garret Maag for the final 45 yards and a dominating 21-0 score.

UND (4-2) would continue to pile on, getting two more touchdown passes from Ketteringham late in the first half, a 55-yard bomb to Izzy Adeoti and a 10-yard strike to Wanzek for a 34-0 halftime advantage. At the break, the numbers were similar with UND only out-gaining Montana, 314-230, but North Dakota's four takeaways all led to touchdowns for the lopsided score.

Montana (4-3, 2-2 Big Sky) would score a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to ruin the shutout but UND would still register its largest win over a ranked opponent since joining the FCS (2008 season). North Dakota improved to 8-23 all-time against ranked opponents in Division I, including 2-0 this season (beat No. 5 Sam Houston State, 24-23).

Ketteringham finished with 17 completions on 25 attempts for four touchdowns and a pair of interceptions for a season-high 254 yards. It marked the fifth four-touchdown game of Ketteringham's career (all previous at Sacramento State) and first as a Fighting Hawk. Junior James Johannesson registered his second 100-yard rushing game with 108 yards on 16 carries and a score.

Evan Holm led the UND defense with eight tackles and a fumble recovery.

North Dakota heads to Sacramento State next week with an 8:00 p.m. Central kickoff.

*Ketteringham was responsible for five touchdowns (four passing, one rushing).
*His passing total was his highest as a Fighting Hawk (254 yards).
*UND's four takeaways were the most since a 48-21 win at Portland State last season.
*Since joining FCS, North Dakota's previous largest win over a ranked opponent was a 31-17 win over No. 18 Cal Poly on Oct. 31, 2009.
*Senior Luke Stanley returned from injury to make his first catch since 2016.
*UND owned the ball for 38:32 in the win, its fifth game this season winning that statistical category.
*North Dakota has owned at least a 6-minute margin in TOP, including the last two over 17 minutes, in all five of those games.
*Wanzek recorded his third career two-touchdown game.
*The Fighting Hawks converted on 9-of-15 third-down attempts.
*Travis Toivonen went over 1,000 receiving yards in his career.
*Adeoti's 55-yard TD was a career long.
*It was UND head coach Bubba Schweigert's 50th career win (50-45 in 9 seasons).