“It was a really good team win,” UND head coach Bubba Schweigert said. “I thought all three phases really contributed tonight after a rough start. We did not get off to a good start, so credit our guys for coming back in those last three quarters and really playing dominating football.”
The Vikings built an early 14-0 lead thanks to a pair of UND miscues in the opening quarter, but the visitors erased those plays from the memory bank and dominated the rest of the way, scoring 34 unanswered points to keep Portland State (0-8, 0-5 BSC) winless on the season.
UND got 13 of those points back before halftime after senior Reid Taubenheim connected on field goals from 22 and 25 yards out and James Johannesson scored on a 1-yard plunge with 3:45 to play before the break. Johannesson’s team-leading fourth touchdown of the season came following a Torrey Hunt interception, which was the first of four turnovers UND would force the rest of the way.
In the third quarter, UND’s offense, defense and special teams all scored touchdowns to put the game out of the reach. Junior John Santiago started things with a 13-yard rushing score that put the Fighting Hawks ahead for the first time at 20-14. The All-American then followed it up with one of the most electric punt returns in school history. He broke seven tackles en route to a 64-yard return that made it a 27-14 contest.
He would also become just the fourth UND player to eclipse the 3,000-yard rushing mark in the contest, finishing with nine carries to land on 3,002 for his career, which also happened to be the announced attendance at Providence Park.
After the teams swapped punts, Jaxson Turner batted an Eason pass in the air and defensive end Austin Cieslak corralled the ball for a pick-six from five yards out to push the visitor’s lead to 34-14. Turner was a menace all game, finishing with a career-high eight tackles, including for four a loss.
After Brady Oliveira made it a 41-21 contest with a 3-yard rushing score with just over a minute to play, Turner sacked PSU back-up quarterback Davis Alexander near midfield and Carter Wilson capped the scoring with a 50-yard fumble return for UND’s second defensive score of the night.
UND stays on the road and will play again next Saturday at Southern Utah, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT kickoff from Cedar City.
GAME NOTES: Permanent captains for the season are seniors Jake Disterhaupt, Cole Reyes and Keaton Studsrud along with junior John Santiago … UND improved to 5-2 all-time vs. Portland State and picked up its first road win of the season … Santiago, who entered the game as the FCS leader in all-purpose yards, finished with 200 in the contest, including a 64-yard punt return for a touchdown … It was the third time this season Santiago has reached the 200-yard all-purpose plateau in a game this season ... UND’s last punt return for a touchdown was also against Portland State back in 2014 when Alex Tillman broke a school-record with a 95-yard effort … Santiago also became just the fourth player in UND history to eclipse the 3,000-yard rushing mark after netting 36 yards on nine carries … He also scored the 30th and 31st touchdowns of his career … Defensive ends Austin Cieslak (5-yard interception return) and Carter Wilson (50-yard fumble return) each scored the first touchdowns of their careers … UND’s two defensive scores were the first time that happened since the third game of last season (Deion Harris and Cole Reyes each had a pick-six vs. South Dakota) … Redshirt freshman Nathan Nguon made his first career start at left guard for the injured A.J. Stockwell … UND’s four forced turnovers were a season high … Sophomore James Johannesson scored UND’s first offensive touchdown, which was his team-leading fourth of the season, which Santiago equaled later in the third quarter … The 290 yards allowed to Portland State was the fewest UND has surrendered to a Big Sky team this season.
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