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UND snaps losing skid with homecoming win over Northern Colorado

UND running backs John Santiago and Brady Oliveira walked side-by-side into the locker room Saturday evening with 5-year-old Crosby Peterson on their shoulders.

UND running back Brady Oliveira runs away from Northern Colorado defenders Denzel Hatcher (33) and Sherand Boyd Jr. Saturday at the Alerus Center.photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
UND running back Brady Oliveira runs away from Northern Colorado defenders Denzel Hatcher (33) and Sherand Boyd Jr. Saturday at the Alerus Center.photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

UND running backs John Santiago and Brady Oliveira walked side-by-side into the locker room Saturday evening with 5-year-old Crosby Peterson on their shoulders.

Earlier this week, Peterson, while wearing a cast on each arm, submitted a video singing the school song and won a contest to travel with the team to Southern Utah later this year.

In the locker room, on UND coach Bubba Schweigert's command, Peterson led the football team's traditional rendition of Stand Up and Cheer.

Yes, the good times were back at the Alerus Center.

With a 48-38 homecoming victory over Northern Colorado, the Fighting Hawks snapped a three-game losing streak, overcame a nightmarish second quarter and blocked out the distraction of two players getting arrested just days earlier on charges of selling drugs.

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"It's been a tough road the past couple of weeks, but we have a lot of young guys in there fighting," UND quarterback Keaton Studsrud said. "It's a good feeling to get a win."

UND's game-sealing drive came with just less than six minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Studsrud ignited the drive with a 33-yard scramble-part of the senior's 97 rushing yards.

With some hard running from UND's third string running back-Minnesota Gophers transfer James Johannesson-UND dug into the red zone but faced a third-and-2 from the 6 with two minutes to go.

The Fighting Hawks turned to a trick play that had gone for a touchdown earlier in the game. UND called for a reverse off a jet sweep.

The play starts with wide receiver Noah Wanzek going in motion before the snap. Studsrud takes the snap and hands to Wanzek, who flips the ball back to Toivonen coming around from the opposite side for the reverse.

On the fourth-quarter score, the reverse left Studsrud throwing the lead block to pave the way for Toivonen to score as four UNC defenders collided with him at the goal line.

"Those are my first rushing touchdowns since the sixth grade, so it felt pretty good," Toivonen said.

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UND, which racked up a season-high 562 yards of total offense, jumped out to a 28-7 lead midway through the second quarter.

Studsrud scored on a 41-yard run on a busted fourth-and-1 play, Toivonen scored on his first reverse rush from 5 yards out, sophomore tight end Alex Cloyd caught his first touchdown pass (21 yards) and Johannesson scored on a 4-yard run.

Johannesson's touchdown gave UND a 21-point lead with 7:17 left to halftime.

After UNC's Collin Root hit a 46-yard field goal, however, UND's momentum quickly washed away. Northern Colorado, which dropped to 2-3 and 1-1 in the Big Sky Conference, scored the game's next 24 points.

On third-and-8 with less than three minutes until halftime, Studsrud was hit from behind by UNC linebacker Luke Nelson. UNC's Khairi Bailey picked up the resulting fumble and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown.

UND's Torrey Hunt fumbled the ensuing kickoff. Three plays later, UNC running back Trae Riek scored on a 1-yard rush. Just like that, UND's lead was just 28-24.

"We wanted to get our guys to settle down," Schweigert said of the halftime speech. "We really lost the momentum in a hurry there, but we were still ahead."

UNC's Riek scored again, this time from 10 yards out, to give the Bears the lead (31-28) on their first possession of the second half.

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But UND would score four of the next five times. UND out-rushed the Bears 314 to 18. Brady Oliveira led the way with 109 yards and Santiago added 70, while Johannesson had 29.

Studsrud finished 17-for-23 with one interception and 248 yards.

UNC starting quarterback Jacob Knipp was hurt late in the first half and didn't return. Knipp ended with 198 passing yards, while backup Conor Regan came in and had 115 passing yards, including a 9-yard touchdown pass to Hakeem Deggs that tied the game at 38 late in the third quarter.

"Getting a big win like this feels awesome, especially on homecoming" UND offensive lineman A.J. Stockwell said. "It's one of the greatest feelings I've had playing football, especially after being in a slump like we were."

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

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, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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