There were two distinct cheers late in the fourth quarter Saturday afternoon.

The first cheer came when the public address announcer recited the score of Southern Illinois' blowout victory over No. 1 North Dakota State.

Moments later, the second cheer was to celebrate one of UND's biggest wins in the NCAA Division I era.

For a number of reasons, it was a joyous mood at the Alerus Center.

Otis Weah's first career two-touchdown performance, a big day from special teams and tough second-half defense sparked No. 14 UND's 28-17 win over No. 3 South Dakota State.

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"The message to the team is to focus on us and our preparation," UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. "We have to handle it. Everybody loves winning, and we'll get lots of compliments. You never get comfortable. You have to stay focused on improving. Other teams around the country are going to keep improving."

The Hawks, who beat their highest-ranked opponent in the Division I era, improved to 2-0 for the first time since the 2015 season when UND started with wins against Wyoming and Drake.

When the FCS national poll comes out on Monday, UND could see its highest ranking of the Division I era. The Fighting Hawks were ranked No. 8 in the nation in 2016 before losing in the FCS playoffs to Richmond.

"It's two big wins for us the last two weeks," UND freshman quarterback Tommy Schuster said. "Rankings-wise, I don't think we're too worried about that, to be honest. We have a short week to play South Dakota on Thursday. We're going to focus on doing the same thing Thursday."

UND won at home for the ninth-straight time. The last time the Fighting Hawks lost in the Alerus Center was Oct. 27, 2018, a 35-30 loss to No. 4 Weber State.

But for the second-straight week, it didn't look good early.

South Dakota State scored on its opening drive -- a five-play, 75-yard march in just more than two minutes. Jaxon Janke caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Mark Gronowski for the 7-0 lead.

Janke, who finished with 161 receiving yards, caught a 76-yard pass later in the first quarter as the Jackrabbits built a 14-7 lead.

But the Hawks hung tight in the first half thanks to special teams. UND blocked an SDSU field goal, while the offense was kickstarted by a fake punt. Punter Cade Peterson hit Garett Maag for a 23-yard gain to set up Weah's first touchdown run of the game.

UND trailed 14-7 at halftime, as the Jackrabbits felt they missed an opportunity to further the spread.

"Things were a little easy in the first half with the big plays," South Dakota State coach John Stiegelmeier said. "You let your guard down and relax ... not to take anything from UND, but it's hard to go 60 minutes with total focus and effort. They did more of that than we did."

The Hawks outscored SDSU 21-3 in the second half.

UND opened the second half with a touchdown drive. Luke Skokna busted off a 43-yard run to put the Fighting Hawks in scoring position. After a Tommy Schuster to Derek Paulson 9-yard gain and an Otis Weah 3-yard run, Skokna went up and over the top of the pile on a 1-yard plunge to tie the score at 14.

After a 39-yard Cole Frahm field goal gave the Jacks a 17-14 lead, UND's special teams came through again. This time, a Ty Shannon blocked punt gave the Hawks the ball in the red zone. Two plays later, Schuster hit Maag on an out route for a 16-yard touchdown in the final seconds of the third quarter for a 21-17 UND lead.

The Hawks then built separation in the fourth quarter. After UND picked up an important third-and-short on a Marcus Preston out route, Weah rumbled 40 yards down the sideline after spinning away from a tackle at the point of attack. Weah fumbled near the 10-yard line but the loose ball popped right into his arms after bouncing on the turf for a touchdown.

Weah ended the game with 17 carries for 88 yards.

"He runs hard," Schweigert said. "He gives us a pretty good element in the backfield. We have to find ways to get him in open space. On the touchdown run, we want that to end differently, but it was a really good run. It's so difficult to run against them, but we had to keep running it."

Schuster, in his second career start, finished 20-for-32 passing for 184 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His leading target was Maag, who had five grabs for 87 yards and a score.

UND's defense limited South Dakota State running back Pierre Strong Jr. to 95 rushing yards on 17 carries. The Jacks finished with 96 rushing yards as a team.

Gronowski was 16-for-32 for 309 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked three times, while Schuster wasn't sacked for a second-straight game.