UND FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Rust wasn't the problem for UND
A lot of the talk leading up to UND's first FCS playoff appearance was the Fighting Hawks' 21-day gap between games. UND had a bye the final week of the regular season and then was awarded a bye as a No. 7 seed in the FCS playoffs. The Fighting H...
A lot of the talk leading up to UND's first FCS playoff appearance was the Fighting Hawks' 21-day gap between games.
UND had a bye the final week of the regular season and then was awarded a bye as a No. 7 seed in the FCS playoffs.
The Fighting Hawks had to point to reasons other than rust in Richmond's 27-24 win on Saturday at the Alerus Center.
UND led 17-7 at halftime and took a 24-7 lead on the first drive of the second half.
"Going up 17-7 and scoring right away in the second half, the hopes were high," said UND quarterback Keaton Studsrud, who passed for 182 yards on 16-for-29 passing. "But, the momentum shifted."
UND's big first half also included a flea flicker from Studsrud to Mercer for a 69-yard touchdown, the longest of Mercer's career.
UND's start was ideal as the halftime stats were lopsided. The Fighting Hawks gave up just 14 rushing yards on 17 carries in the first half.
The only gaffe was a 79-yard touchdown pass from Kevin Johnson to Brian Brown (five catches, 117 yards) late in the first quarter.
UND's defense was also energized, forcing Richmond into a 1-for-7 showing on third downs.
"The momentum switch killed us," said UND safety Cole Reyes, who finished tied for a team-high with 12 tackles. "We let up a blocked punt and make a stupid decision to give them a first down."
When Richmond entered into UND territory late in the fourth quarter on a 54-yard pass from Johnson to Tyler Wilkins and a field goal became a somewhat easy proposition to win the game, some UND fans wondered if the Fighting Hawks would let the Spiders score to have an opportunity to get the ball back.
"I considered it," UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. "We decided to play it out and see if we could get a turnover and get the ball on the ground or block a kick. We aren't the kind of team to let people score, and we've been really opportunistic this season."
UND also ended the game with one timeout remaining. The Fighting Hawks didn't use the timeout and Richmond allowed the clock to tick down to three seconds left before calling its final timeout and setting up for the game-winning kick.
Studsrud says UND will be back
In the postgame press conference, UND quarterback Keaton Studsrud finished his comments by looking ahead to next season and gave an emphatic statement about 2017.
"Since we've got here, we've continued to get better and better," Studsrud said. "Mark my words, we'll make a run next year. We'll make a run for it. We will make it further."
UND graduates 14 seniors, including standouts Michael Coe, Dylan Bakker, Brian Labat, Noah Johnson and Jawon Johnson.
But of UND's 10 Big Sky Conference all-conference selections, only three were seniors.
According to UND coach Bubba Schweigert, the message in the locker room was "we thank the seniors because they've changed the culture of the program."
"We have to learn from it," Schweigert said. "There's no finger pointing on this team. All of us could've done better."
-- UND was called for just two penalties for a total of 12 yards.
-- Brady Oliveira and John Santiago split carries most of the game. Santiago finished with 59 rushing yards on 18 carries, while Oliveira had 60 yards on 12 carries.
-- UND finished with four sacks. Connor O'Brien, Donnell Rodgers and Jawon Johnson each had one sack, while Cole Reyes and Brian Labat combined for another.
-- UND's three losses this season were by a combined eight points.