The Thunderbirds (7-2, 5-1 BSC) never trailed in the contest after jumping out to a 14-0 lead in the opening quarter, but the Fighting Hawks (3-7, 2-5 BSC) would make things interesting before a quartet of second-half turnovers would prove costly in the end.
“We didn’t play well enough to win the football game," UND head coach Bubba Schweigert said. “We didn’t play good defense in the first half. We played well offensively, but missed an opportunity to score late in the half on the (missed) fourth down.
“I thought we played better defense in the second half, got it to a one score game. Then, we made an unforced error and after that unforced error we never recovered.”
SUU scored touchdowns on its first four possessions behind the strong play of senior quarterback Patrick Tyler, who threw for 310 yards and two touchdowns. The Thunderbirds also got five rushing touchdowns with three of those coming from Jay Green, who finished with 14 carries for 62 yards.
Junior John Santiago got UND on the scoreboard late in the first quarter with a 63-yard scoring run that was the 31st touchdown of his career. He finished with his second 100-yard rushing game of the season, turning 10 carries into 115 yards.
Senior Keaton Studsrud and sophomore Noah Wanzek teamed up for their first of two scoring passes in the game to make it a 20-14 contest five minutes into the second quarter. Tyler connected with Alex Croyle on 13-yard pass to push the lead back to two scores midway through the stanza at 27-14.
That’s how the half would end after the T-Birds made the biggest defensive stop of the game on a 4th-and-1 as the defense stuffed Studsrud on a quarterback keeper, then tackled Santiago in bounds on their own 29-yard line as the first-half clock expired, preventing a chance at a field goal.
Wanzek’s second touchdown reception of the game came on UND’s opening possession of the third quarter, cutting UND’s deficit to 27-21, but that would be as close as the visitors would get in this one. Wanzek equaled his career-high with eight receptions for 107 yards and finished with his third 100-yard receiving game of the season.
After forcing SUU to punt following the Wanzek touchdown, UND committed the first turnover of the game by either team when De’mun Mercer bobbled a jet sweep handoff and SUU recovered it on the Fighting Hawks’ 14-yardline.
Green would score his third rushing touchdown of the game on a 4th-and-1 from the six to put SUU back up by two scores at 34-21.
UND threatened again, but SUU would come up with an interception deep in its own territory and quickly turn that miscue into a touchdown. Terran Beasley scored the T-Birds’ fifth rushing touchdown of the game from 51 yards out to make it a 40-21 contest.
SUU would tack on one more touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 24-yard pass from Patrick Tyler to Alex Croyle. It was the second scoring connection between those two in the contest.
UND returns home to take on another ranked opponent next Saturday as No. 11 Eastern Washington visits the Alerus Center for a 1 p.m. CT kickoff.
GAME NOTES: Permanent captains for the season are seniors Jake Disterhaupt, Cole Reyes and Keaton Studsrud along with junior John Santiago … SUU took a 5-4 lead in the all-time series with the victory … Studsrud completed his first nine passes of the game … The Thunderbirds finished with a 4-0 turnover advantage ... Santiago’s 63-yard touchdown run in the first quarter was the 31st touchdown of his career, tying him for eighth on UND’s all-time list … He finished with 10 carries for 115 yards to finish to register his second 100-yard game of the season and 15th of his career … Sophomore Noah Wanzek had the second multiple-touchdown game of his career and leads the team with six touchdown receptions on the season … He also had his third 100-yard receiving game of the season, finishing with eight catches for 107 yards.
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