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With chance to run out clock, UND fumbles late to lose 32-28 at Missouri State

Missouri State scores go-ahead touchdown with 15 seconds remaining.

Missouri State's Jordan Murray runs for yardage as North Dakota's Sammy Fort and Caleb Nelson go for the tackle during Saturday's Missouri Valley Football Conference game. Missouri State capitalized on a late UND fumble to win 32-28. Photo/Missouri State Athletics
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The UND football team had a chance to drain the clock late in the fourth quarter Saturday against Missouri State, a win the Fighting Hawks hoped could have propelled a playoff push.

Instead, the Fighting Hawks fumbled. With that, UND botched the play, then the game, then most likely a spot in the FCS playoffs.

UND running back Otis Weah, who finished with 156 rushing yards and three touchdowns, fumbled on second-and-6 at the Missouri State 23 with 1 minute, 39 seconds left -- a play that led to No. 17 Missouri State's go-ahead touchdown in a 32-28 victory at Plaster Stadium.

"All we needed was one more first down and the game was over," UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. "We needed 6 yards on three downs. It didn't happen."

Missouri State countered with an eight-play, 76-yard drive, finished off by an Isaac Smith 2-yard touchdown catch on third-and-goal with 15 seconds remaining.

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"That one definitely stings," UND linebacker Ty Shannon said. "Some people got complacent. They were a team that could make some things happen. We just couldn't execute. We didn't do our jobs. That's what happens when you can't do your job at this level.

"It sucks, especially being a senior. How many more do we have left? You don't know."

UND has now lost four Missouri Valley Football Conference games by one score.

"Obviously it hurts," UND left tackle Matt Waletzko said. "It's not what we wanted. We had it right where we wanted it, but we missed a few plays. It just comes down to closing out the game."

The Hawks looked like they were in the driver's seat at a few points in the second half. Weah scored on a 12-yard option pitch from Tommy Schuster to give UND a 28-17 lead with 13:16 left in the fourth quarter.

The tide started to turn when UND failed to pick up a fourth-and-2 from the MSU 29 with 6:41 remaining. On the play, UND tried a trick play in which Quincy Vaughn walked away from the quarterback spot and the snap went right to Weah, who tried to pitch to Bo Belquist coming across on a reverse but the pitch was botched.

The Bears answered quickly as quarterback Jason Shelley scored on a 12-yard scramble with 4:33 to play. MSU tacked on a 2-point conversion pass to make it a three-point game.

But Weah responded with a 34-yard run on UND's next possession. Later, the Hawks picked up fourth-and-1 from the 32 with about two minutes left -- a play that appeared to be the back-breaker.

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But on second-and-6, after Missouri State used its first timeout, Weah took a handoff to the right side and was twisted up and fumbled.

Missouri State's passing attack was effective most of the game. Shelley threw for 349 yards and three touchdowns, hitting Tyrone Scott 10 times for 147 yards. Running back Tobias Little added 111 yards rushing.

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
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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