The Fighting Hawks picked up a huge win Saturday as they defeated the Weber State Wildcats 27-19.
Saturday was the biggest game of UND’s short FCS career. It was the first time that the Alerus Center has seen two teams face off that each sit atop their division.
“We knew this was gonna be a really tough game for us,” head coach Bubba Schweigert said. “Proud of our guys, finding a way to win is not always easy, and it’s a struggle sometimes, but you gotta really stick with it, really compete and I thought our guys really competed today.”
After picking up a thrilling win against Utah State last week, Weber State came in ready to stop the Hawk’s winning streak.
Instead, it was UND who would be the streak busters as Weber State had won five games in a row.
The game started with a bang. John Santiago returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown.
On the Wildcats’ first possession, Zach Arnell intercepted a pass on just the second throw of the day from Weber State. The ball was bobbled by the receiver, and Arnell ripped it away.
UND got the ball back, and proceeded to drive the ball down into the Wildcats’ territory. On the fourth down, UND gambled and tried to convert the first down. Quarterback Keaton Studsrud came up just short on a run, turning the ball over.
The teams punted back and forth until mid way through the second quarter. Quarterback Jadrian Clark found his receiver in the end zone after the defender fell down. This tied the score 7-7.
After the Hawks went three-and-out, the Wildcats’ offense was back to work. After passes of 47 and 29 yards set them up, they ran the ball in for the score making it 13-7 after a failed two point conversion.
The teams went into half time with the Wildcats holding a 13-7 lead over the Hawks.
The second half started very well for UND. After forcing Weber State to punt on the opening possession, they proceeded to drive the ball 80 yards capped by a touchdown run from Brady Oliveira. It was his sixth game in a row with a touchdown and it made the score 14-13. Just three plays after, Cole Reyes intercepted Clark.
The Hawks started on the Weber State 17-yard line, and would convert the turnover into points, but not before Studsrud had to leave the game with an injury.
Brad Heidlebaugh stepped into the quarterback role and threw a touchdown on his first pass extending the Hawks’ lead to 21-13.
The two teams went back and forth again with punts in the third quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, Brandon Dranka fell on a fumble by Clark after a sack giving UND excellent field position. They were only able to kick a field goal, giving UND a 24-13 lead.
Weber State responded with points of their own. A long kick return set up the Wildcats with great field position. Clark hit one of his receivers in the end zone with a pass to cut into the UND lead 24-19. From there on, UND’s defense held the Bobcats.
Reyes recorded his second interception of the day, and came very close to taking it to the house, but was forced out of bounds.
As a whole, UND sacked Clark seven times. He had been sacked only 10 times all year.
“We felt comfortable bringing pressure, once we got pressure on that quarterback, he started to struggle,” Cole Reyes said.
The win is huge for the Fighting Hawks as they not only move to 6-0 in the conference, but also knock off one of the other undefeated in the conference teams. After last season, an automatic bid for winning the conference would be extremely welcomed.
The whole season, coaches and players alike have talked about winning the conference being a big goal of theirs. With the win over Weber Sate, they took a big step in the right direction.
UND and Eastern Washington are the only undefeated conference teams left in the Big Sky.
The Wildcats will return home next weekend to face Northern Arizona. This next week will be a big test for them as they take on the Cal Poly Mustangs and their electric offense.
The Hawks will have two more games, one home against Northern Arizona and one on the road against Northern Colorado.
A scheduling quirk this season for the Hawks is that they do not have a middle of the season bye week, rather end the season a week before all other teams.
Hopefully, when the Hawks are home for the last week watching all the other FCS teams play, their fate will already be decided with their first Big Sky conference championship in program history.
The Hawks return to action next weekend in Greeley, Colorado against Northern Colorado on Nov. 5. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:05 p.m.
Adam Gunderman is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]