Maybe after two agonizing losses and facing a 20-point second-half deficit against South Dakota, the UND football team deserved to storm the field in celebration twice during double overtime.
UND first invaded the field in jubilation when running back John Santiago appeared to score on first-and-goal in double overtime. The play, however, was overturned by officials who ruled Santiago was downed inside the 1.
In the end, quarterback Keaton Studsrud's 1-yard sneak on third-and-goal gave the Fighting Hawks a 47-44 win in double overtime over South Dakota on Saturday in the 51st Potato Bowl before 11,477 fans at the Alerus Center.
After starting the season ranked No. 19 in the national polls, UND lost 13-9 at Stony Brook in Week 1 due to a blocked punt for a score. In Week 2, UND lost 27-26 at Bowling Green and missed a 2-point conversion pass with 13 seconds left.
"Our locker room sure was different when you're on the right end of the scoreboard," UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. "Our guys felt good about winning the game. We feel better about ourselves because we got a win."
Early in the second half against USD, the prospects of a UND win were bleak.
South Dakota marched down the field on its opening possession of the second half and went ahead 34-14 when Trevor Bouma scored on a 4-yard touchdown run with 10:25 left in the third quarter.
"We better get going here, or we'll run out of time," Schweigert said of his thoughts at the time. "We were never in panic. I was really proud of our guys. We played pretty good defense after giving up that drive to start the second half."
After USD's dominant 14-play, 75-yard drive to start the second half, the Fighting Hawks scored 20 straight points to send the game to overtime.
"You can't ever lose faith in a game or you're setting yourself up for failure," Santiago said. "Coming out in the second half, we all believed we could come back."
UND kicker Reid Taubenheim hit two field goals which bookended a Santiago 7-yard touchdown pass-the first of his career-from Studsrud with 11:33 left in the fourth quarter to make it 34-24.
The key play came with 3:28 left in the fourth quarter when UND cornerback Deion Harris intercepted USD quarterback Chris Streveler and returned it 33 yards to tie the game at 34.
Harris picked off his third pass in two games and scored a touchdown for the second-straight week.
"They were making a run; I knew they would," USD coach Bob Nielson said. "They're playing at home in front of a great crowd ... a team is going to keep coming."
UND and USD traded quick strikes in the first overtime-the first overtime at the Alerus Center since Oct. 18, 2003, against North Dakota State.
On UND's possession to open the extra frame, Santiago, who finished with 140 rushing yards, scored from 25 yards out.
The Coyotes matched the score, however, when Streveler (90 rushing yards, 215 passing yards, four touchdowns) hit Shamar Jackson from 25 yards out to retie the score at 41.
South Dakota, which dropped to 1-2, got the ball first to start the second overtime. When UND cornerback Torrey Hunt batted down a Streveler pass on third-and-5 from the 20, USD kicker Miles Bergner, who hit three field goals, gave the Coyotes a 44-41 lead with a 37-yard make.
On UND's possession in double overtime, Studsrud found Luke Stanley on second down on a back-shoulder throw for a 17-yard gain down to the 8.
On first down, Santiago froze a defender near the line of scrimmage and plowed into the end zone after contact near the goal line. The play was originally ruled a touchdown but a review placed the ball at the 1.
"I gave it all I got; I know that," Santiago said. "I might have scored, I might not have. They said I didn't, but I had faith in the rest of the offense and they got the job done."
On second down, Studsrud was stuffed on a sneak. On third down, UND ran the same play and Studsrud reached across the goal line for the winning points.
"I'm kind of sick of the close games," Studsrud said. "We came up short last week. We got in the same situation this week, and we made the most of it."