GRAND FORKS, N.D. (UND Athletics) -- Brady Leach drilled a career-long 46-yard field goal with 57 seconds remaining and the North Dakota (3-2) defense stood its ground on the ensuing drive to clinch a thrilling, 38-36 victory over No. 12 UC Davis (2-4, 0-2 Big Sky) on Saturday afternoon from the Alerus Center.
UND held strong on the final possession of the game, as Jake Maier’s pass fell incomplete on a 4th and 14 attempt from the UND 40 to clinch the 10th ranked win in the Division I era for the Fighting Hawks and the second in three tries this season.
Nate Ketteringham bounced back from a tough start last week, throwing for 279 yards and three scores to help engineer the victory. The senior completed 72.5% of his throws, 29-of-40, to seven-different receivers and only committed one turnover. Garett Maag was his favorite target of the afternoon, as the sophomore hauled in a career-high 10 catches and 81 yards while also striking for a touchdown.
James Johannesson was also strong on the ground for the second straight week. The senior averaged just under five yards per carry, rushing for 87 yards on 18 carries. He was held out of the end zone for the first time this season, however.
Brock Boltmann needed only seven plays to have an impact all over the field, rushing twice for 47 yards and catching five passes for 54 yards and a touchdown.
On offense, the Fighting Hawks exploded for a season-best 474 yards of total offense and 38 points. Even though the hosts were outgained, 478-474, UND was able to convert 7-of-14 on third down to extend drives and create scores.
On the defensive side of the ball, UND was led by Donnell Rodgers for the fourth straight game. The senior was all over the field for the Hawks, leading the team with 13 total tackles while also registering three pass breakups, a forced fumble, 0.5 tackles for loss, and a quarterback hurry.
CJ Siegel also came up with a pair of interceptions, the first two of his career, and Noah Larson collected a third to intercept the preseason All-American a trio of times.
After six turnovers a week ago, including three through the air, UND came out attacking through the pass game on the opening drive of the contest. Ketteringham completed seven of 10 passes for 67 yards, capped off by an 8-yard touchdown pass to Alex Cloyd to give the Fighting Hawks an early 7-0 lead. The senior found six-different receivers on the scoring drive, which tied the longest by plays this season (14).
Following a 3-and-out by UC Davis, UND turned to the ground game to get its second drive cooking. Out of the “Brockstar Formation,” Boltmann scampered for 23 yards, eluding multiple defenders, before Ketteringham found Wanzek for 17 yards to quickly put the Hawks on the Aggie side of the field. The drive failed to produce points, however, as Ketteringham was stuffed on a 4th-and-1 attempt from the 21.
After the UND defense clamped down again, the offense turned tricky to march for its second touchdown of the day. Some more Boltmann runs, a double reverse, and a pass from Wanzek to Ketteringham set the Hawks up on the goal line. On first and goal, Johannesson was upended and fumbled the ball, but Patric Rooney fell on the ball in the end zone for the touchdown and a 14-0 UND lead at the end of the first quarter.
UC Davis answered with a quick touchdown drive of its own to cut the deficit in half, but the Fighting Hawks responded once again. Cam McKinney started with a 38-yard kick return to give the Hawks good field position. Three straight completions by Ketteringham put the Hawks just outside the red zone before the senior found Boltmann streaking across the middle for a 23-yard touchdown pass and a 21-7 lead in the second stanza.
The back-and-forth affair continued as the second quarter wore down. UC Davis cut the Fighting Hawks back down to seven with a pair of deep passes that led to a touchdown, but the home team answered back once again. UND marched 72 yards on just seven plays, capped off by Ketteringham’s third touchdown of the day, this time to Maag, to extend the lead to 28-14 with just over three minutes remaining in a wild first half.
The Aggies wasted no time getting on the board in the second half, as the visitors needed only three plays to move 75 yards and chip the UND lead down to seven to open the frame. The scoring strike thrown by Maier put the Aggies over 200 passing yards on the game, becoming the first team to eclipse that mark against UND this season.
Just when it looked like momentum was moving away from UND, Noah Larson came through with another huge play. The sophomore lunged for a diving interception off a deflected pass to put the Hawks right back in the red zone. Two plays later, Dalton Gee punched it in from 8-yards out to restore the two-score lead for the hosts.
As the theme had been all day, UC Davis responded once again. Maier stood in the pocket and took a hard hit from Jaxson Turner, but delivered a strike the end zone to cut the lead to 35-28 at the midway point of the third quarter. After a punt by UND, the Aggies looked poised to tie the game, but Rodgers made back-to-back stops on third and fourth down to halt the drive.
The craziness ensued over the next few minutes of the fourth quarter. First, Ketteringham was intercepted along the sideline to give the ball right back to the Aggies on the UND side of the field; however, Maier’s next pass was picked off by CJ Siegel in the end zone to complete the ol’ turnover-for-turnover play. The drive did not produce anything for the Hawks, as UC Davis fielded a short punt and moved right back into UND territory. Once again, however, the Fighting Hawk defense made the play. Siegel picked off his second pass of the day, this time on a fourth down pass, and returned it 58 yards to the 21 of the visitors with just over six minutes to play.
UND could not muster any points to extend the lead back to two scores, as Leach’s 37-yard attempt was wide left and UC Davis took over with 5:28 to play down by seven.
After the missed kick, UC Davis marched down the field and converted a 4th and goal play to move the visitors within a point, but decided to line up for a two-point conversion. On the play, Maier found Khris Vaughn in the back of the end zone to complete the conversion and put the Aggies up by one, 36-35, with 2:06 remaining.
The ensuing kickoff traveled out of bounds to set the Hawks up with good field position, allowing the hosts to move to the UC Davis 29 before Ketteringham’s third-down pass was incomplete. Leach nailed his shot at redemption, drilling the 46-yard attempt to give the Hawks a 38-36 advantage with just under a minute to go.
UC Davis, with all three timeouts, crossed into UND territory rather quickly, but started struggling at the 30-yard line and facing a third down and five. That play quickly turned into a 3rd and 10 thanks to a false start penalty before Maier’s pass was incomplete to setup a 52-yard field goal try; however, the play clock had expired before the kick was attempted to push the Aggies out of range and now forcing the visitors to try and convert a 4th and 14. Mason Bennett’s quarterback hurry forced a low throw from Maier, as the ball fell incomplete to the turf and UND took over on downs with just nine seconds to play.
North Dakota hits the road for the first of two straight away from Grand Forks next Saturday. UND will travel to battle Idaho State, a place the Fighting Hawks have never lost, at 2:05 p.m. in Pocatello, Idaho.
NOTES: The touchdown by Patric Rooney was the first of his career … Noah Wanzek eclipsed 2,000 yards receiving, becoming only the second player to accomplish the feat in the Division I era … Ketteringham’s three touchdown passes in the first half are his second most at UND … UND surrendered over 200 passing yards for the first time this season … UND moves to 10-26 in its DI history against ranked foes and 2-1 this season … The Hawks are 3-0 at home for the first time since 2016 and fourth time in the DI era … Leach’s 46-yard field goal was the longest of his career … Johannesson’s touchdown streak was halted at four, the longest to start a season since 2007 … Maag’s 10 catches and 81 yards are a new career high … McKinney eclipsed 100 all-purpose yards for the third straight week … The No. 12 ranking was the second-highest ranked opponent UND has defeated in the DI era (No. 5 Sam Houston – 2018).