UND Offense Stalls in Potato Bowl Loss

Fighting Hawks fail to score in the second half

GRAND FORKS, N.D.-– North Dakota, after converting on all five of its third-down attempts in the first half, was just 1-for-10 on second-half third-down tries and visiting Idaho State sneaked away with a 25-21 victory in front of 11,157 fans at the Alerus Center Saturday evening in the annual Potato Bowl and homecoming game.

The 22nd-ranked Fighting Hawks were fresh off a big road win at then-No. 5 Sam Houston State last week. The momentum from that game seemed to overflow into a first half full of fireworks in a contest that saw two different games during each 30-minute segment.

“It was kind of a tale of two halves,” UND head coach Bubba Schweigert said following the loss. “I liked our team this week in practice, I thought we were focused and practiced hard. But, this will be a tough one to overcome.”

The teams piled up over 1,000 yards of total offense, including 664 of those coming in the first half. ISU’s Tanner Gueller hooked up with brother, Mitch, for a 64-yard scoring strike with 7:42 to play to put the Bengals up for good, 25-21.

John Santiago finished with 111 yards rushing and a score for North Dakota while Nate Ketteringham was 19-for-38 with two scores and two interceptions. Noah Wanzek caught five balls for 109 yards and a touchdown.

In the first quarter, North Dakota piled up 184 yards of total offense and converted on all five of its third-down attempts on the way to a 14-6 lead. John Santiago slipped loose of several would-be tacklers and scampered up the near sideline for 32 yards on the game’s first possession. That run capped an 11-play, 81-yard drive that consumed the game’s opening 5:20 as UND held the ball for nearly 11 minutes in the first stanza.

Mason Bennett sacked ISU quarterback Tanner Gueller on third-and-goal to force ISU to kick a field goal. UND then answered with another long drive, eating up 5:23 and going 83 yards on a dozen plays for a 14-3 lead. The scoring play saw Travis Toivonen carry a handful of Bengals into the endzone with him for his second touchdown of the season.

ISU responded with a field goal on the next possession and the game’s first punt didn’t come until the opening minutes of the second quarter.

Jordan Canady intercepted Tanner Gueller but UND’s drive stalled near the ISU end zone on a fumble. Idaho State made it hurt, going 80 yards in three plays to inch within one. The Bengals would claim their first lead four minutes later as Campbell Sheidow connected on his third field goal of the half for a 16-14 score.

Evan Holm returned a kick 48 yards to setup a quick UND drive to regain control. Nate Ketteringham found Noah Wanzek behind the defense and 46 yards later he found paydirt for a 21-16 lead.

Idaho State added another field goal before the half and it was a 21-19 game at the break. The teams combined for 664 yards of total offense, but the second half would have a much different feel.

In the third quarter, both offenses combined to punt five times and gained just 103 yards in 33 plays in that scoreless 15-minute stretch. The game was left in to the defenses’ hands in the pivtoal fourth. Early on, UND’s Quintin Seguin snuffed out a 4th-and-1 at the UND 23, turning the ball over on downs and giving North Dakota an opportunity to build on a slim two-point lead.

North Dakota couldn’t advance into ISU territory, however, and the Bengals got another shot at reclaiming the lead. A 13-yard completion set up a 67-yard scoring strike from Tanner Gueller to brother, Mitch, with 7:42 left and Idaho State staked itself to a 25-21 advantage.

The UND defense held on third down at the 31 for a field goal attempt. That’s where a huge special teams play swung momentum back to the home squad as Jaxson Turner got a paw on the field goal attempt, blocking it to Deion Harris, who scooped it up and scampered it to the ISU 44.

Santiago had runs of 13 and 20 yards to get it down to the ISU 14 with under two minutes to play. Two incomplete passes made it fourth down and Christian McFarland got in front of a pass for what would be a game-sealing interception.

Donnell Rodgers and Tanner Palmborg paced the Fighting Hawks defense with eight tackles, including three for loss.

North Dakota (2-2) heads to Northern Colorado next week to battle the Bears. Kick time is set for 1:00 p.m. Central.

Northern Colorado next week to battle the Bears. Kick time is set for 1:00 p.m. Central.