“One thing that I asked our team to do was play hard for 60 minutes and I think our guys did that tonight,” UND head coach Bubba Schweigert said. “Could we play better? Sure. I think we can execute better.
“Defensively, (Darren) Carrington hurt us. We always want to tackle better and we take a lot of pride in tackling. We probably didn’t do that as well as we needed to. Offensively, we want to run the ball with more consistency, but we knew that would be a challenge coming into the game.”
The Utes’ defensive front bottled up the All-Big Sky running back duo of John Santiago and Brady Oliveira, holding them to a combined 35 yards on 17 attempts. Quarterback Keaton Studsrud went 13-for-28 through the air for 175 yards and a touchdown, but the offense could never gain any traction in front of the 45th-straight sellout at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Studsrud went 3-for-3 for 76 yards on UND’s lone touchdown drive that cut a fourth-quarter deficit to 27-16, but the Utes would get the final 10 points to end any thoughts of an upset.
Sophomore Travis Toivonen led UND with four receptions for 64 yards, while senior De’mun Mercer added three grabs for 32 yards. The Fighting Hawks were within a score at halftime thanks to the leg of placekicker Reid Taubenheim, who made all three of his field goal attempts in the opening 30 minutes. His 43-yard connection with two seconds remaining in the half made it a 17-9 contest.
Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley had an impressive collegiate debut after throwing an interception on his opening drive. UND’s Evan Holm corralled that pick with a diving grab that set up Taubenheim’s first field goal of the day from 32 yards out. Huntley settled down after that and went 23-for-32 through the air for 227 yards and added 70 rushing yards, while accounting for three of the Utes’ four touchdowns.
The sophomore had two of those on the ground and the first was a 16-yard scamper with his team facing a 4th-and-1 early in the second quarter that put the Utes on the board. His throwing strike went to Carrington, who had 10 catches for 127 yards in his Utah debut after transferring from Pac-12 rival Oregon.
UND senior Jake Disterhaupt, who was making his first career start at inside linebacker, finished with a career-high 14 tackles to lead all players. He was one of four Fighting Hawks to register a new career-high in tackles.
UND returns to action next Saturday at the Alerus Center for its home opener against Missouri State in the 52nd-annual Potato Bowl USA Game. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. CT.
GAME NOTES: Captains for the game were seniors Jake Disterhaupt, Keaton Studsrud and Cole Reyes along with junior John Santiago … Disterhaupt surpassed his career-high in tackles with nine in the first half and finished the game with 14 … Sophomore Evan Holm had his second career interception on Utah’s opening possession … Holm also had a new career-high in tackles by halftime with six and finished with eight … Senior Chuck Flowers (eight) and sophomore Jade Lawrence (seven) also added career-highs in tackles … Senior Reid Taubenheim went 3-for-3 on field goals and moved into fourth place on the program’s all-time list for career makes in the regular season with 46 … Junior Luke Fiedler’s 3-yard touchdown reception early in the fourth quarter was the second of his career … With the loss, UND is now 1-9 all-time against FBS opponents … This was the 45th-straight sellout at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
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