The Fighting Hawks (2-4, 1-2 Big Sky) took an early 28-7 lead, but Northern Colorado came storming back to take a third quarter lead. UND kept a five-game winning streak over the Bears in tact, however, by pounding away on the ground to forge its only rally.
The offense totalled a season-high rushing 314 yards, which included a game-high 109 from Brady Oliveira and 97 more from senior quarterback Keaton Studsrud to snap a three-game skid. UND outscored the Bears 10-0 in the fourth quarter and dominated time of possession, holding a 15-plus minute advantage in that category.
"We really need that one," UND head coach Bubba Schweigert said. "Our guys needed a positive result and I was really proud of our team for the way we battled, especially in the second half.
"We lost a big lead and things were not looking very good for us. We lost a lot of momentum, but our guys came back. We ran the football, found ways to get off the field and make some plays to seal the win down the stretch."
The quarterbacks took the spotlight in the opening quarter. Studsrud got the Fighting Hawks on the board first with a fourth-down sneak that wound up going 41 yards for a touchdown.
Northern Colorado's Jacob Knipp would answer, however, completing an 80-yard strike as he was being hit to tie the score.
On the ensuing possession, Studsrud and the UND offense converted a pair of fourth downs, including a five-yard scoring reverse by Travis Toivonen. Studsrud helped spring Toivonen's first career rushing touchdown with a downfield block to wrap up an impressive 12-play, 75-yard drive that spanned 7:41.
Early in the second quarter, the defense created a turnover deep in UNC territory and this time North Dakota needed just one play to convert it into points.
After redshirt freshman Cam Hunt came down with an interception on just his third collegiate snap, Studsrud found Alex Cloyd for a 21-yard score that left the Fighting Hawks up 21-7. The receiving touchdown was Cloyd's first of his career.
On UND's next drive, sophomore running back James Johannesson then punched one in from four yards out on his first carry of the game to put the home team ahead 28-7.
The momentum quickly shifted, however, and UNC scored 17 of what would be 24 unanswered points before halftime. The Bears got a long field goal (46 yards) then converted a pair of fumbles into touchdowns to sneak back within four at 28-24 by the break.
Root missed a chance to pull the Bears within a point at halftime as his 49-yard field goal sailed wide. The big blow to UNC happened on the play before that as he was injured and did not return following a 28-yard completion to Frank Stephens.
With back-up quarterback Conor Regan at the helm to start the second half, the Bears would use just 90 seconds to take their first lead of the game at 31-28 on a 10-yard run by Trae Riek.
UND would bring a halt to the 24-0 run by the visitors and square the game at 31-31 thanks to a 30-yard field goal by Reid Taubenheim on the next possession. After holding UNC to a punt, junior John Santiago gave the lead back to North Dakota with a 2-yard scoring plunge midway through the third quarter. Santiago finished with 15 carries for 70 yards.
Regan and the Bears answered quickly, tying the score at 38-38 heading into the fourth quarter on a 9-yard scoring pass to Hakeem Deggs.
Taubenheim put UND back in front on a 19-yard field goal and the UND defense yielded zero points the rest of the way. Toivonen iced the game with two minutes to play as he scored his second rushing touchdown on an identical reverse to cap the scoring.
Studsrud finished with an efficient 17-for-23 effort through the air for 248 yards, while Knipp threw for 198 first-half yards before not returning. Regan added 115 passing yards in relief of the senior.
Senior Chuck Flowers picked off the Bears' final offensive snap to squash any thoughts of a late rally by UNC, who gave up 48 points for the second-consecutive week.
UND takes the road next week, heading to Missoula, Mont. to battle the Griz. Kickoff is slated for 2:00 p.m. CT.
GAME NOTES: Permanent captains for the season are Jake Disterhaupt, John Santiago, Keaton Studsrud and Cole Reyes … Disterhaupt and Reyes both missed the contest with injuries ... The 48 points were a season-high for UND and the most scored by the Fighting Hawks in a Homecoming game in the Alerus Center … The Fighting Hawks have now won five straight in the series with UNC and own a 17-12 all-time advantage … Sophomore Brady Oliveira hit the century mark for the second-straight game and eighth time in his career … UND’s 314 rushing yards and 562 yards of total offense were both season highs … UND’s defense limited the Bears to just 18 rushing yards on 22 attempts … That total is Redshirt freshman Cam Hunt made his collegiate debut and had an interception on just his third career snap … Hunt added two tackles, including one for a loss … Senior A.J. Stockwell made his first career start at left guard … He missed the last two games and had started 24 of the previous 25 games at left tackle … Sophomore Jade Lawrence accounted for half of UND’s three sacks, registering 1.5 sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss and a pass break-up ... Sophomore tight end Alex Cloyd had two receptions for a career-high 58 yards, including his first career touchdown reception that went for 21 yards.
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