College Football: UND Falls to EWU in Regular Season Finale
Fighting Hawks finish the season 3-8.
GRAND FORKS, N.D. (UND Athletics) – Senior Day heroics had become the norm of late at the Alerus Center, but in the 2017 edition No. 19/21 Eastern Washington prevented those by clipping North Dakota 21-14 Saturday. The Eagles (6-4, 5-2, BSC) kept their FCS playoff and Big Sky title hopes alive, while bringing an injury-riddled season for the Fighting Hawks (3-8, 2-6 BSC) to an end.
“Another disappointing result today for our team,” UND head coach Bubba Schwiegert said. “When you get into these situations, it is hard to know what to say, but when it comes down to it, we just didn’t make enough plays to win the game.”
“I thought we played better defense the second half, which we did. We gave ourselves some opportunities and the costly turnovers hurt us. As we look at the game and as we look at the season, it’s kind of really what we’ve been battling (all year).”
The Fighting Hawks trailed 21-7 at the break in a matchup of the 2016 Big Sky Co-champions, but would not give up any more points in their quest to send out their 22-man senior class with a victory in what was the program’s final game as a league member.
UND scored the only second-half points after quarterback Keaton Studsrud caught the first touchdown pass of his career from wide receiver Noah Wanzek. Studsrud’s reception came from two yards after Wanzek came around the right end on a reverse with 4:47 to play.
EWU punter Jordan Dascalo had a tremendous day, averaging 52.7 yards per punt and his final effort went 67 yards and pinned the UND offense back on its own 3-yard line. After netting a first down on the opening play of the drive, the Fighting Hawks came up empty on their next four plays as the Eagles hung on for the important victory.
UND had threatened multipe times to draw closer before that closing stretch, but came up empty after the Eagles forced the only two turnovers of the game.
The first came after wide receiver Stetson Carr tried to provide some of those heroics in his final collegiate game, but as he was stretching for a touchdown after an 11-yard reception, Nzuzi Webster knocked ball loose a half-yard shy of the goalline and the Eagles scooped up the loose ball to keep their advantage at 14.
After racking up 289 yards of total offense behind redshirt freshman Eric Barriere, who was making his first career start for suspended All-American Gage Gubrud, the Eagles managed just 87 yards in the second half.
UND forced the Eagles’ fourth punt of the second half following Carr’s fumble, but Studsrud went for the home run ball on first down and safety Josh Lewis came down with the interception.
EWU would be forced to punt again and this time Studsrud and company would find paydirt as he capped the 13-play, 73-yard drive by being on the receiving end of a scoring pass for the first time after delivering 36 of those in his career.
Carr finished the contest with a career-high in receptions (8) and yardage (117), while eclipsing the century mark for the first time in his career. Wanzek added six grabs for 59 yards and Travis Toivonen also added six for 75 allowing Studsrud to equal his career-high with 22 completions.
UND opened the scoring with a 7-yard touchdown run bymidway through the opening quarter, but those would be the only points of the opening half for the home team.
EWU would score 21 unanswered points before the half, including getting a 1-yard touchdown run from Barriere as time expired on a 4th-and-goal.
The Eagles also got a touchdown pass and touchdown reception from running back Sam McPherson in the opening half. McPherson racked up 155 all-purpose yards, including 118 on the ground and his two-yard scoring toss opened the scoring for the visitors. He would leave the game with an injury after a 55-yard scamper that set his team up for its final score of the half.
UND’s defensive saved its best defensive half of the season for the final 30 minutes and sophomore Ray Haas was a big part of that, finishing with a career-high nine tackles. Junior Austin Cieslak also had a career-day, totalling eight tackles in the contest.
The Eagles only managed to hold a 376-366 edge in total offense after coming into the game averaging 460.0 ypg. UND had trouble getting the ground game going and rushed for just 103 yards on 31 carries.
This was the final game of the season for the Fighting Hawks, whose bye week was scheduled for week No. 12 of the season.