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Utah pulls away for a 37-16 win over UND in the season opener

Aug 31, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Utes wide receiver Troy McCormick Jr. (4) dives across the end zone past North Dakota Fighting Hawks defensive back Tanner Palmborg (21) to have the touchdown called back on a penalty at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports1 / 4
Aug 31, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Utes wide receiver Darren Carrington (9) runs the ball against North Dakota Fighting Hawks defensive back Evan Holm (6) defensive back Chuck Flowers (17) in the first quarter at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports2 / 4
Aug 31, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; North Dakota Fighting Hawks defensive back Evan Holm (6) celebrates a first quarter interception against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports3 / 4
Aug 31, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; North Dakota running back John Santiago runs the ball in the first quarter against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports4 / 4

SALT LAKE CITY -- The more than 45,000 fans at Rice-Eccles Stadium were anxious to see a new era of Utah football.

The new-look Utes had a new offensive coordinator, a flashy young quarterback and a highly touted transfer wide receiver.

UND, a No. 8-ranked team in the FCS, made Utes fans sweat it out briefly but the Fighting Hawks were eventually overmatched by Utah, a No. 25-ranked team in the FBS.

The Utes used sophomore quarterback Tyler Huntley’s 227 passing yards, 70 rushing yards and three total touchdowns to beat the Fighting Hawks 37-16 on Thursday night in the season opener for both teams.

“One thing we ask our team to do is play hard for 60 minutes and our guys did that,” UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. “Can we play better? Sure. We can execute better.”

UND came within 11 points in fourth quarter when senior quarterback Keaton Studsrud hit Noah Wanzek for 41 yards, then Travis Toivonen for 33. The drive was capped by a 3-yard touchdown pass to Luke Fiedler to make it 27-16 with 14 minutes, 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

After Utah kicker Matt Gay hit a 49-yard field goal to stretch the lead to 14, the Fighting Hawks had one more chance at a comeback effort.

On first down, however, Studsrud’s short carry ended with his helmet coming off, forcing him to sit out one play.

Backup quarterback Brad Heidlebaugh was rushed into action and was sacked on the next play.

On third-and-long with less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter, Studsrud’s pass attempt to tight end Alex Cloyd tipped off Cloyd’s hands and into the arms of Utah defensive back Julian Blackmon.

Utah took advantage as Huntley eventually scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to put the game out of reach at 37-16 with 2:09 left.

“When you come to play the top schools, you have to bring your A game,” Studsrud said. “You can’t have mental mistakes. You have to put it on yourself, too. I missed some checks in there where the ball should’ve went to a different place. You’ve got to execute.”

UND struggled to run the football effectively against Utah’s stout defensive front. UND was outgained on the ground 272-51.

UND all-Big Sky Conference running back John Santiago was limited to 10 carries for 20 yards, which included one 15-yard gain. The Fighting Hawks had 10 rushing yards in the second half.

“Nobody really moves them,” Schweigert said of the Utah defensive line. “You have to get to the edges and try to neutralize them. When you don’t get that movement, those other guys show up and can play better.”

Utah, under first-year offensive coordinator Troy Taylor, showcased its new attack. Zack Moss ran for 128 yards and Oregon transfer Derron Carrington had 10 catches for 127 yards and a touchdown.

“Very mobile,” Schweigert said of Huntley. “He has a lot of talent. We guessed that coming in.”

UND returns home next weekend for the Potato Bowl against Missouri State at the Alerus Center.

“Looking at tonight’s game, we have good ability and just as well we have a lot to work on,” UND linebacker Jake Disterhaupt said.

Utah 37 UND 16

UND 3 6 7 0 -- 16 UTA 0 17 10 10 -- 37

UND—Reid Taubenheim 32 field goal; drive: 7 plays, 13 yards, 3:01

Utah—Tyler Huntley 16 run (Matt Gay kick), 10 plays, 81 yards, 4:02

UND—Taubenheim 26 field goal, 14 plays, 56 yards, 5:48

Utah—D. Carrington 18 pass from Huntley (Gay kick) 8 plays, 75 yards, 2:20

Utah—Matt Gay 42 field goal, 11 plays 42 yards, 4:02

UND—Taubenheim 43 field goal, 6 plays, 49 yards, 1:13

Utah—Zach Moss 5 run (Gay kick) 7 plays, 85 yards, 3:05

Utah—Gay 32 field goal, 12 plays, 66 yard, 5:31

UND—Luke Fiedler 3 pass from Keaton Studsrud (Taubenheim kick) 6 plays, 82 yards, 2:55

Utah—Gay 49 field goal, 7 plays, 44 yards, 3:15

Utah—Huntley 1 run, Gay kick; 7 plays, 33 yard, 2:09

Tom Miller

Miller has been with the Grand Forks Herald sports department for the past 13 years. He's also a Grand Forks native and UND graduate. 

(701) 780-1121
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