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UND uses late score to beat Illinois State 14-7

The Fighting Hawks improved to 5-5 overall.

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UND's Brock Boltmann hauls in a long pass to set up the Fighting Hawks second touchdown late in the fourth quarter Saturday against Illinois State at the Alerus Center. Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

If UND seniors Brock Boltmann and Jaxson Turner don't play another game at the Alerus Center, their parting memories will be fitting.

Boltmann's 37-yard improbable catch in the fourth quarter -- the longest play of the game for either team to that point -- set up UND's game-winning score, while Turner became UND's Division I career sacks leader with a fourth-quarter sack in a 14-7 win over Illinois State on Senior Day on Saturday.

"Brock makes a really good play and it's always good to see seniors on senior day make a play like that," UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. "From my vantage point, it didn't look like he had a chance to go get it. That was huge. We needed something at that time."

Boltmann's catch in which he wrestled a lofted pass from Tommy Schuster away from two Illinois State defenders on third-and-12 gave UND first-and-goal at the 5 in a tie game.

"I just had to beat the safety over the top," said Boltmann, who led UND with four catches for 77 yards. "I had a similar play in the first half and (the defender) broke it up right at the end, so I guess I had a little extra juice to make that play."

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Three plays later, backup quarterback Quincy Vaughn came in, faked a handoff to Otis Weah and hit true freshman Gaven Ziebarth in the endzone for a 3-yard touchdown catch and a 14-7 lead with 4 minutes, 26 seconds remaining.

The Redbirds' final possession ended with a punt because on third-and-8 from near midfield, UND linebacker Kason Kelley sacked Illinois State quarterback Jackson Waring for a loss of 16 yards.

Rather than attempt fourth-and-24, Illinois State punted with 1:40 left in the game.

On UND's next play, Weah broke free for a 40-yard run to seal the victory.

Weah finished with 17 carries for 80 yards, with half of those yards coming on his last carry. Illinois State's tough run defense forced UND to throw the ball, as Schuster finished 19-for-25 for 233 yards.

Illinois State's conservative offense was held in check most of the game. The Redbirds' biggest threat was Cole Mueller, who had 25 carries for 90 yards.

UND finished with an edge of 348 yards to 164 in total offense.

But the Hawks couldn't bury Illinois State, despite a number of opportunities to go ahead by two scores.

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UND fumbled in the red zone twice -- wide receiver Garett Maag fumbled after a 16-yard catch at the 3-yard line with three minutes left in the first half, while wide receiver Bo Belquist fumbled at the 14 with 9 minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

UND kicker Brady Stevens also hit the right upright on a 45-yard field goal attempt with 2 seconds left in the second quarter, an attempt to put the Hawks ahead by 10 at the break.

Illinois State tied the game early in the fourth quarter. Waring found Brett Spaulding open for a 28-yard touchdown pass, which was ISU's longest play of the day.

Waring, one of three Illinois State quarterbacks to play in the game, finished 7-for-13 for 77 yards. He was sacked three times and UND finished with five sacks, including two by Turner.

Turner's two sacks gave him 21.0 for his career, surpassing former teammate Mason Bennett for UND's career sacks lead in the Division I era.

UND, which improved to 5-5 overall and 3-4 in Missouri Valley play, closes out the regular season next weekend at South Dakota State in Brookings.

"We know we're playing a really good football team on the road," Schweigert said. "It'll be outside, so we don't know what the conditions will be but I know our guys will be excited to play because it's another opportunity to rack up a really good win."

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Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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