Teamwork makes the dream work

UND quarterback Keaton Studsrud (left) runs the ball against Cal Poly State linebacker Joseph Gigantino during Saturdays game at the Alerus Center.

Dakota Student / Nicholas Nelson

UND quarterback Keaton Studsrud (left) runs the ball against Cal Poly State linebacker Joseph Gigantino during Saturday’s game at the Alerus Center.

Fighting Hawks stun No. 16 Mustangs in weekend battle at the Alerus

The Fighting Hawks defeated the sixteenth-ranked Cal Poly Mustangs 31-24 at the Alerus Center Saturday afternoon.

The game started out bleak for UND. On just the second play of the game, All-American running back John Santiago left the game after a defender rolled over his leg on a long 25-yard play. He was not able to return.

After coming off a career high in rushing yards last week in Montana, Brady Oliveira stepped up for the Hawks. The sophomore was able to rush for 127 yards against the best run defense in the Big Sky conference.

Oliveira also had help from Redshirt freshman Austin Gordon who rushed nine times for 62 yards in his first game for UND.

Both teams punted on their first possessions of the game.

On the Hawks second possession, the offense came alive. An offense that had troubles early in the game suddenly kicked into gear for a 45-yard touchdown drive capped off by a 16-yard touchdown run by quarterback Keaton Studsrud.

The Mustangs wanted to tie the game up right away, and went for it on 4th down and 1 on their own 36-yard line. The UND defense remained strong up the middle and stopped the run before they could pick up the first down.

With short field position, the Hawks were only able to muster a field goal after Studsrud stumbled after taking the snap on 3rd down and goal the the Cal Poly 10-yard line. This made the score 10-0.

The defense forced the Mustang offense to go three-and-out on the ensuing Cal Poly drive. When they got the ball back, they drove it 84 yards before an Oliveira fumble inside the Cal Poly 5-yard line gave the ball back to the Mustangs.

With 2:18 left in the first half, Cal Poly orchestrated their first long drive of the game. They went nine plays, for 79 yards ending in a 13-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dano Graves with 32 seconds remaining. The score was 10-7 going into halftime.

The second half started much the same as it ended. Cal Poly drove 75 yards on the opening possession and scored on a 24-yard pass by Graves to make the score 10-14. The Mustangs had their first lead of the game.

UND answered immediately. They drove the ball down to the Cal Poly side of the field. On their down and three yards to go, Studsrud connected with freshman Noah Wanzek for 16 yards on a nice sideline catch. He went right back to him in the corner of the end zone for an excellent touchdown grab. It was 17-14, Hawks back in control.

Cal Poly threw an interception to Zach Arnell, his second in two weeks, setting up another UND touchdown. Oliveira found a huge hole created by the offensive line, and shot through it for an un-touched 38-yard touchdown run. UND now held a commanding 24-14 lead.

The Mustangs started to drive the ball, but it stalled out at the UND 36-yard line and they settled for a field goal. With 1:27 left in the 3rd quarter, UND lead was cut to 24-17.

After receiving the kickoff, Studsrud found a wide-open Luke Stanley, who stiff-armed his way to a 74-yard touchdown. The score was now 31-17.

The Fighting Hawks and Mustangs traded punts on each of their next possessions.

With 5:28 remaining, Cal Poly was pinned at their own 2-yard line after an excellent punt and pit by the Hawks. On the first play, Graves uncorked a 40-yard pass. Three plays later, he threw a 25-yard touchdown pass. The Hawks are clinging to a 31-24 lead with 4:21 left.

The UND offense was only able to take 22 seconds off the clock before they punted the ball back to Cal Poly.

The Mustang offense got the ball down to the UND 2-yard line, but an interception by Torrey Hunt sealed the win for the Hawks.

UND was able to hold the Mustangs to 202 yards rushing. Coming into the matchup, they had averaged 363 yards rushing a game.

Defensively, Tank Harris had a big day with a career-high seven tackles. The nose guard was a big part in slowing down the Mustang rushing attack up the middle.

Studsrud also had a terrific game. He completed 15 of his 21 passes for 249 passing yards and two touchdowns as well as a rushing touchdown.

Being 2-0 in the Big Sky is huge for the Fighting Hawks, but they know there is work left to be done.

“It’s a big step towards our big goal,” Harris said. “We want to be the Big Sky Champs. We’re just going to keep taking it one game at a time. That’s one down, many more to come.”

The Hawks head to Sacramento, Calif. next Saturday, Oct. 8, to take on Sacramento State in another Big Sky Conference matchup. The game starts at 8 p.m.

Adam Gunderman is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. he can be reached at [email protected]