Editor's note: This is the second installment of a series in which the Grand Forks Herald's veteran sports staff ranks their top five memorable moments. Herald sports writer Tom Miller begins his list with his No. 5 memorable moment.
During UND football’s NCAA Division I transition years, matchups with South Dakota were the closest thing to a barometer you could find.
During those years (2008-11), scheduling was a challenge. There were a lot of games against opponents much higher and much lower in the college football pecking order.
Games against the Coyotes were a good test to see where the program sat as both schools navigated the new Division I world.
So in the final game of the 2011 season, the last game of the transition era, UND trailed South Dakota 34-17 at halftime. The measuring stick was looking pretty ugly.
The UND program was in a bit of a rut, having lost to the University of Sioux Falls -- of the NAIA ranks at the time -- in 2009, finishing 3-8 in 2010 and then barely beating Sioux Falls in the rematch in 2011.
At halftime, I told a media friend from Sioux Falls I wasn’t so sure UND head coach Chris Mussman could survive giving up 60 points to South Dakota in Grand Forks. Mussman’s seat might not have been hot yet exactly, but it was definitely warming up.
I always remember my friend’s response.
“Just wait,” he said. “This South Dakota team is known for losing leads.”
I rolled my eyes, but he might have been the only one in the Alerus Center predicting what happened next.
The then-Sioux started the fourth quarter down 20 but came back behind an unlikely passing connection to stun South Dakota and win a share of the Great West Conference title.
As I wrote for my Grand Forks Herald column the next day: “The quarterback they said couldn’t throw hit the wide receiver they said couldn’t catch and the team they said couldn’t score capped off a 21-point fourth quarter.”
Sioux quarterback Brent Goska was a nice kid, a powerful runner and respected leader, but he wasn’t considered a great passer. Goska averaged less than 125 passing yards per game in 2011. Four of his nine touchdowns in 2011 came against the Yotes.
In the final 15 minutes against USD, Goska went 15-for-20 for 145 yards. His offense was also playing without its best player in injured wide receiver Greg Hardin.
Through three quarters, the Sioux had passed for 74 yards and had 85 yards of total offense. They stumbled on 17 points at that juncture thanks to a defensive touchdown and a short field off another turnover.
UND’s comeback started when Goska hit tight end Seth Nichols for a 25-yard touchdown pass off play action on fourth-and-1 with 10 minutes left to trim the lead to 13.
Goska then hit Tyhre Ivery for a short touchdown pass with five minutes to go as the Sioux crept within six.
USD then committed its third turnover of the game by fumbling the ensuing kickoff -- this from a Yotes team that had two turnovers all season prior to the season finale.
Four plays later, Goska found Chris Anderson in the back of the end zone from 15 yards out to take the lead with four minutes left. Anderson stretched out and barely put one foot in the back of the end zone.
As I pointed out in a 2011 column: “Anderson, a fifth-year senior, saw spotty playing time throughout his career, due in part to some untimely drops.”
That game-winning play was the only touchdown catch of his senior year and the fourth of his career.
Goska summed it up perfectly after the game: “I don’t know how it happened. Don’t ask me to do it again, but it was awesome.”
At halftime, I thought UND's head coach's job was in jeopardy. But just a few days after this game, and after rumors of USD trashing its Alerus locker room, it was USD that fired Ed Meierkort.
South Dakota still hasn't won in Grand Forks since 1985, and this one will go down as the most shocking in that run.
Herald Top 5 memories
5. Stunning fourth quarter made 2011 UND-South Dakota football game unforgettable