UND wins seventh-straight game in 27-19 victory over Weber State
UND football coach Bubba Schweigert had to pause to search for kind words to describe the team's big second-half touchdown pass from Brad Heidlebaugh to Noah Wanzek.
UND football coach Bubba Schweigert had to pause to search for kind words to describe the team’s big second-half touchdown pass from Brad Heidlebaugh to Noah Wanzek.
“It scored,” Schweigert said. “It wasn’t pretty, but it scored.”
Wanzek’s diving 2-yard touchdown catch on fourth down in the third quarter on a fluttering toss from backup quarterback Brad Heidlebaugh sparked UND to a 27-19 win over Weber State on Saturday afternoon at the Alerus Center.
The Fighting Hawks won their seventh-straight game and improved to 7-2 overall and 6-0 in the Big Sky Conference. Weber State dropped to 5-3 overall and 4-1 in the Big Sky.
Heidlebaugh, filling in for injured starter Keaton Studsrud, was attempting his first career pass on fourth down.
Wanzek, a 6-foot-4 true freshman from Jamestown, N.D., said the play was designed for fellow wide receiver Travis Toivonen.
“I turned around and holy crap, there’s the ball,” said Wanzek, whose catch gave UND a 21-13 lead. “It surprised me.”
UND, which trailed 13-7 at halftime, turned up the defensive pressure in the second half. The Fighting Hawks registered seven sacks, led by 2.5 sacks from defensive end Drew Greely.
UND also won the turnover battle 4-0 behind three interceptions, including two by safety Cole Reyes.
Reyes, who didn’t play the last two weeks against Southern Utah and Idaho State, made an emphatic return to the lineup against Weber State.
Reyes had a pick in both the third and fourth quarters. His first interception led to Wanzek’s score, while his second interception set up UND kicker Reid Taubenheim’s 42-yard field goal with under two minutes to play for the final margin.
“Eight is a really good player for us,” UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. “Those were big-time plays to change the momentum in the game.”
UND held Weber State to 12 rushing yards on 31 carries. The 12 yards are the lowest since UND allowed 6 yards on 21 carries at Idaho State in 2013.
“It was a tough game,” Weber State coach Jay Hill said. “We knew it would be a physical battle, but you can’t go into a game like that and lose the turnover margin 4-0 and beat a good team.”
The Fighting Hawks won despite passing for just 41 yards. That’s the lowest total for UND since pulling the redshirt on Studsrud late in the 2014 season prior to a game at Eastern Washington, where Studsrud threw for 37 yards.
Studsrud finished 4-for-9 passing for 26 yards. He was injured in the third quarter and later returned to the sideline in a sling on his throwing arm.
“He’s real sore,” Schweigert said. “He thought he could go, but we didn’t want to put him at anymore risk. I know he’ll work hard and try to get back as quickly as possible.”
After turning to Heidlebaugh in the red zone following Studsrud’s injury, the Fighting Hawks opted for veteran backup quarterback Ryan Bartels in the fourth quarter.
Bartels was 2-for-5 passing for 13 yards.
“Brad and Ryan haven’t played all year, so that’s a difficult situation,” Schweigert said.
UND’s offense was picked up by its defense, which limited Weber to 286 yards of total offense. The special teams did their part, too, as John Santiago returned the opening kick 100 yards for a touchdown to start the game.
UND is now just one of two unbeaten teams in first place in the Big Sky Conference along with Eastern Washington, which defeated Montana on Saturday.
The Fighting Hawks travel to Northern Colorado next weekend followed by a regular-season finale against Northern Arizona at the Alerus Center.
“We’re at the top and want to remain there,” Reyes said. “We’re one game closer to what we want.”