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UND holds off Portland State 17-10

Senior UND running back Brady Oliveira breaks through the Portland State defense Saturday afternoon at the Alerus Center. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald 1 / 4
Portland State quarterback Davis Alexander grimaces as UND linebacker Everett Williams (#52) sacks him Saturday afternoon at the Alerus Center. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald 2 / 4
Fighting Hawks offensive linesman Matt Waletzko (#76) celebrates teammate Nate Ketteringham's (#8) first quarter rush touchdown against Portland State Saturday afternoon at the Alerus Center. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald 3 / 4
Fighting Hawks tight end Luke Fiedler clears Portland State's Artuz Manning (#24) out of the path of running back Brady Oliveira (#5) during Saturday's matinee home football game. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald 4 / 4

With a sputtering UND offense, Portland State entered the fourth quarter Saturday holding a lead and all the momentum.

Lenny Nelson’s interception for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter pumped life back into the Fighting Hawks -- not just for the game but also for a renewed hope at the postseason after a number of scores around the FCS favored UND.

Nelson’s 58-yard interception for a touchdown sparked UND to a 17-10 college football win over Portland State in front of 7,494 at the Alerus Center.

UND improved to 6-4, while Portland State dropped to 4-6.

“Our motto is believe,” UND running back John Santiago said. “If you go 7-4, you never know what’s going to happen. Football is a crazy game. Anything can happen.”

UND’s defense recorded five sacks, recovered two fumbles and had Nelson’s pick six, which came off a tipped ball near the line of scrimmage by Jaxson Turner.

All this came against an offense that scored 45 points in a loss to Idaho State last Saturday.

“Defensive struggle -- that’s what it always is against a Bubba Schweigert team,” Portland State coach Bruce Barnum said. “I wanted to play more gun-slinger; it just didn’t work. I wanted to test their perimeter. They did a nice job defending. They made plays. We didn’t make plays.”

The Fighting Hawks entered the game shorthanded on offense without wide receivers Izzy Adeoti, Travis Toivonen and Garett Maag.

UND quarterback Nate Ketteringham finished 8-for-16 for 100 yards. He was sacked four times.

Portland State outgained UND 300-222 in total offense.

The Hawks scored first when Ketteringham rushed in from a yard out in the first quarter to put UND up 7-0.

Portland State answered with a Cody Williams 25-yard field goal in the second quarter and a Davis Alexander 4-yard run in the third quarter to take the 14-10 lead.

Nelson’s interception for a touchdown flipped momentum as the Hawks’ offense came out in the second half with just one first down on its first two drives up to that point.

Alexander proved slippery, as he ran for 70 yards. He had 122 positive yards but was credited with minus-52 rushing yards due to sacks.

The Hawks’ defense, though, was able to limit big plays. Alexander’s 46-yard pass to Emmanuel Daigbe was PSU’s only play over 27 yards for a team that ran 77 plays.

Although UND’s offense was stagnant most of the game, the Hawks came up with a decisive fourth-quarter drive when they needed it most -- a 14-play, 70-yard drive that was capped with a Brady Leach 19-yard field goal for a 17-10 lead with 54 seconds remaining.

The key play on the drive came early in the series on third-and-8, when Ketteringham floated a pass to Noah Wanzek for 18 yards.

Another important moment came on fourth-and-1 from the 6 when Ketteringham drew PSU offsides.

UND wasn’t able to score a touchdown after the offsides, but the additional time milked off the clock didn’t allow the Vikings enough remaining seconds for a strong rebuttal.

Alexander’s Hail Mary pass from near midfield in the closing seconds was incomplete.

“We got to this week and said we’ve got to get to six wins,” Schweigert said. “Then, let’s get to seven. You never know what’s going to happen.

“Too many teams lose hope. It’s better to be optimistic. I’m optimistic. I think we can go on the road and get one. If we get seven wins, we should be in.”

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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