UND picks up first road win of the season at Portland State
PORTLAND, Ore.—John Santiago generated a stunning highlight. Keaton Studsrud hit timely passes. UND's defense was attacking.
For a moment, in unique Providence Park in downtown, you could almost forget that UND's preseason hype has long faded and a year filled with injuries and mishaps is nearing an end.
At least for a night, Fighting Hawks fans could enjoy many of the reasons this 2017 season was supposed to be special.
UND scored twice on defense, Santiago scored on a wild 64-yard punt return for a touchdown and the Fighting Hawks won their first road game of the season 48-21 over Portland State on Saturday night.
"This was a team effort, and it boosts everybody's mood," Santiago said. "We wanted to sing that fight song in someone else's locker room, and we did that tonight."
UND improved to 3-6 overall and 2-4 in the Big Sky Conference. Portland State dropped to 0-8.
"That was a really good team win," UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. "All three phases contributed. I was really proud of our guys for coming back the last three quarters and playing dominating football."
It was not an ideal start for UND, which fumbled the first snap of the game and trailed 14-0 after the first quarter.
But the Fighting Hawks outscored the Vikings 48-7 across the final three quarters, sparked by three non-offensive touchdowns.
The key stretch came in the third quarter when Santiago made his presence known after being quiet the entire first half.
After a shanked 11-yard punt put UND in great field position, Santiago finished off a drive with a 13-yard sweep to take the Hawks' first lead of the game 20-14.
The Vikings went three-and-out on the next drive. UND defensive lineman Austin Cieslak batted down a pass on first down, then hurried PSU quarterback Jalani Eason on a third-down throw to force another punt.
This time, Santiago had plenty of room to roam. He fought off roughly seven arm tackles on his way to a touchdown and a 27-14 lead.
"He looked like he was stopped three, four, five different times," Schweigert said. "He's capable of doing those special things."
UND's defense slammed the door late. Cieslak had a 5-yard interception return for a touchdown when Jaxson Turner batted a pass to his teammate late in the third quarter.
Late in the fourth quarter, UND defensive lineman Carter Wilson picked up a fumble caused by a Turner hit. He went in 50 yards for the final score with three seconds left in the game.
"That's a lot of fun," Schweigert said. "The plane ride home is a lot better. This is pretty special."
Studsrud, who was questionable with an injury, played the entire game for the first time in a few weeks.
He threw for 183 yards and was a key to UND finishing 9-for-14 on third downs.
UND's running back corps shared the workload, with no backs rushing for more than 55 yards. Brady Oliveira, James Johannesson and Santiago each finished with a rushing touchdown.
PSU's struggles at quarterback continued. Eason, a true freshman, was 12-for-22 for 150 yards and was intercepted twice.
His replacement, Davis Alexander threw for 67 yards and was picked off once.