UND FOOTBALL: Portland State QB presents challenges in homecoming matchup

The UND football team's defense has seen its share of athletic quarterbacks already this season, including Missouri State's Kierra Harris, Montana State's Dakota Prukop and Montana's Jordan Johnson. In Saturday's 1:30 p.m. homecoming matchup with...


The UND football team’s defense has seen its share of athletic quarterbacks already this season, including Missouri State’s Kierra Harris, Montana State’s Dakota Prukop and Montana’s Jordan Johnson.

In Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. homecoming matchup with Portland State at the Alerus Center, UND will see another athletic quarterback, this one with a different style.

Portland State’s signal caller is just as likely to run through a defender as run past him.

Kieran McDonagh, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound junior, will be the focal point for the UND defense.


“He can break tackles,” UND head coach Bubba Schweigert said. “He’s pretty athletic. He’s also tough to get down. You need to get enough guys to him and always be aware of where he is. He gets a lot of scramble yards by improvising.”

McDonagh’s two first-half rushing touchdowns keyed Portland State’s 23-14 home win over UC Davis last Saturday.

On the season, McDonagh is 79-for-155 passing for 770 yards. He also has five interceptions to four touchdowns. On the ground, McDonagh has carried 27 times for 76 yards and three scores.

UND is no stranger to McDonagh’s style. He ran for 108 yards on 10 carries in PSU’s 14-10 comeback win over UND last season in Portland.

“We just have to trust the guys up front and stay on our man,” said UND safety Cole Reyes, a redshirt freshman who led the team in tackles against Montana last Saturday. “If they can pressure him into throwing a bad ball, it’s going to help us as a unit.”

McDonagh is in his third season starting and UND has been able to force turnovers against him. In a wild 45-37 UND win at the Alerus in 2012, McDonagh threw for 301 yards and three scores but was also intercepted twice. Last year in Portland, he had an interception and a fumble.

Turnovers were an issue for the Vikings all of last season and have continued this year. PSU had 29 turnovers in 12 games last season and had a minus-eight turnover margin. This year, the Vikings have 11 turnovers through five games and a minus-five turnover margin.

UND’s defense is making the most of its turnovers, too. With cornerback Chris Brown’s interception for a touchdown last week against Montana, UND has scored a defensive touchdown in three straight games.


 UND now ranks first in the Big Sky in run defense, giving up 125.3 yards per game.

Woodsmall out for year

UND starting nose guard Kyle Woodsmall is out for the season after suffering a knee injury last Saturday against Montana.

Minnesota transfer Jordan Hinojosa, who started a couple of games earlier this year, will move to No. 1 on the depth chart.

The team is considering moving starting defensive end Spencer Cummings to nose guard to help with depth. Hinojosa would then be backed up by Cummings and sophomore Marcus Cheatom.

Woodsmall, a junior, ends the year with five tackles and one sack.





Up next

Who: UND vs. Portland State.

When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Alerus Center.

TV/radio: MidcoSports (GF Channel 27); The Fox (96.1 FM).

Records: UND 0-2, 2-4; Portland State 1-0, 2-3.

Of note: UND has lost its past four homecoming games.

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019 and 2022.

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, or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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