No. 22 North Dakota’s upset bid falls just short at No. 3 Weber State
No. 22 North Dakota gave No. 3 Weber State everything it had, but the Wildcats rallied from a fourth quarter deficit to defeat the Fighting Hawks, 30-27, on Saturday afternoon at Stewart Stadium in Ogden, Utah.
Trailing 27-20 with under three minutes to play, Weber State rallied for 10 points over the final moments to thwart UND’s upset bid and its fourth win over a ranked opponent this season.
A near-perfect game from the visitors fell just short, as Brock Boltmann couldn’t catch a kickoff cleanly and Weber State (8-2, 6-0 Big Sky) pounced on the loose ball to take over in the red zone with just over two minutes remaining. The UND (5-4) defense held WSU to a field goal, giving the Fighting Hawks 31 seconds to try and either tie the game or take the lead; however, Nate Ketteringham’s final heave towards the end zone was knocked down.
Ketteringham finished the game with 304 passing yards, the second 300-plus yard game of his career, on 23-of-38 and three touchdowns. The senior was not sacked on the afternoon and did not throw an interception for the third straight start. Noah Wanzek hauled in seven catches for a career-high 140 receiving yards and a touchdown, while Travis Tovionen grabbed a pair of touchdowns and 81 yards on six catches and Garett Maag finished with a game-high eight grabs for 55 yards.
UND couldn’t get much from its running game against one of the FCS’ top rushing defenses, as Luke Skokna led the Hawks with 39 yards on seven carries. As a team, the visitors finished with 90 rushing yards while Weber State ran for 223 yards on 40 carries and a touchdown.
Both teams finished with 63 total plays, with Weber State finishing with 453 total yards and UND posting 389. Turnovers proved to be a large factor throughout the game, as UND picked off Jake Constantine twice and WSU capitalizing on its lone-fumble recovery.
Jordan Canady and Donnell Rodgers led UND with nine tackles apiece, marking only the second game this season that Rodgers has finished without double-digit tackles. The senior came up with an interception while Hayden Galvin came up with the other for the Hawks.
It has been no secret that UND has struggled in the opening halves this season when on the road, and Saturday looked to be headed in the same direction, with WSU jumping out to a 14-0 lead with just under six minutes to play in the first quarter. UND responded, however, with a 7-play, 79-yard touchdown drive capped off by a Ketteringham to Toivonen 33-yard TD pass on a 3rd-and-10 to cut the deficit in half.
Weber State continued to get into UND territory for a majority of the first half, as the UND defense bent, but didn’t break, forcing WSU to settle for field goals on its next two possessions.
UND traded field goals for touchdowns, cashing in on a failed onside kick when Ketteringham first found Maag for 28 yards down the sideline before throwing a perfect ball to the corner of the end zone for Wanzek to trim the lead to 17-14 early in the second quarter.
Midway through the second stanza, UND looked to be forced to punt, but Cade Peterson fooled everyone with a 22-yard run on a fake punt to give the Hawks a new set of downs. The green and white turned the fake into points, as Brady Leach drilled a 31-yard field goal with 19 seconds remaining in the half to trail by just three, 20-17, heading into the locker room.
UND snatched the lead right out of the break, needing only six plays and two minutes to march 77 yards. Ketteringham again put a deep ball on the money to Wanzek along the sideline before hitting Toivonen for a touchdown on a 2-yard screen to put the visitors in front, 24-20, for the first time.
The defense marked the remainder of the third quarter, forcing a punt on the ensuing possession with a stuff by Graham DeVore on third-and-short before Rodgers intercepted Constantine with the Wildcats driving into UND territory. The Hawks couldn’t turn the turnover into points, however, with Leach’s 43-yard attempt missing wide right to keep the lead at four heading into the final quarter.
Weber State once again marched into the red zone on the opening drive of the fourth quarter, but the UND defense came up with the big play again. Galvin stepped right in front of Constantine’s pass at the goal line and returned it 29 yards to thwart another scoring attempt.
This time UND was able to convert the big play into points, but it could have been more. The Hawks dialed up the double-reverse pass, with Ketteringham finding Toivonen wide open deep in WSU territory, but the receiver had to go to a knee to catch the pass to mark him down at the 18. The Wildcats held on the next three plays, forcing a 34-yard field goal attempt to keep the deficit at just one score, 27-20, with just under seven minutes to play.
WSU answered back with an 8-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to tie the game at 27 before Boltmann fumbled the ensuing kickoff to give the hosts the ball at the UND 22. Trey Tuttle connected on a 32-yard field goal with 31 seconds to play to give Weber State the lead, 30-27. Ketteringham moved UND to midfield, but no further as the upset bid fell just short.
North Dakota returns home to battle Northern Colorado next Saturday from the Alerus Center.
NOTES: Andre Steiger made his first-career start … Noah Wanzek’s 140 yards receiving are a new career high … Travis Toivonen finished with two receiving touchdowns for the first time in his career and his second multi-TD game … UND falls to 3-3 against ranked opponents this season … UND allowed over 200 yards passing for only the third time this season.