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Santiago punt return creates a quick buzz

Portland State Vikings wide receiver Easton Trakel (87) blocks North Dakota's Oscar Nevermann as Portland State Vikings wide receiver Kahlil Dawson (5) takes the ball upfield during a kickoff during the second half. Photo/Troy Wayrynen

PORTLAND, Ore.—UND's John Santiago has cranked out the highlights in his three-year college career, but perhaps none have been as impressive as his 64-yard punt return for a touchdown on Saturday night.

Santiago's special teams score sparked a 48-21 win over Portland State at Providence Park.

"I love getting a return and making something out of nothing," Santiago said. "I saw that the punter outkicked his coverage a little bit. I took it and trusted my blocks. I was really trying to get into that end zone."

Santiago had only returned five punt this year for a total of 77 yards.

Against PSU, he had two for 69 yards.

"I was chopping my feet," Santiago said. "I try to treat it like tag. I run around and stay away from people."

Santiago had four carries for 10 yards in the first half before making his mark in the third quarter. The junior needed 34 rushing yards to go over 3,000 for his career. He finished with 36 rushing yards. He also had two catches for 12 yards.

"That was a crazy return," UND running back Brady Oliveira said. "I called it right before he even caught it. I knew he was going to the house."

Another secondary challenge

UND could be without the services of safety Chuck Flowers next week at Southern Utah.

Flowers was called for targeting in the final minute of play against Portland State sliding quarterback Davis Alexander.

The play was reviewed and Flowers was ejected for the contact to the head.

The availability of Flowers will be a challenge for a UND secondary that has been bit by the injury bug.

UND only traveled three safeties to Portland: Flowers, Jordan Canady and Ty Shannon.

Extra points

• UND nose guard Tank Harris and offensive lineman A.J. Stockwell did not play against Portland State due to injuries. Harris made the trip but did not dress.

• UND and Portland State didn't have a punt between the two teams in the first half.

• Santiago's punt return for a touchdown was the first for UND since Alex Tillman went 95 yards against Portland State in the Alerus Center in 2014.

• UND scored two defensive touchdowns in one game for the first time since a win over South Dakota last season. Deion Harris and Cole Reyes, both injured this year, returned interceptions for touchdowns against the Coyotes.

• UND received a breakout game from redshirt freshman linebacker Jaxson Turner, who had a team-high eight tackles, four tackles for loss, a forced fumble that led to a score and a pass break-up that led to a score.

• PSU's Providence Park is also home to a Major League Soccer team, the Portland Timbers.

Tom Miller

Miller has been with the Grand Forks Herald sports department since 2004. He's also a Grand Forks native and UND graduate. 

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