Defense, true freshman Schuster leads UND over No. 24 Sam Houston State 27-23.

GRAND FORKS — Somewhere within, North Dakota found the grit it needed to overcome yet another loss by snatching a victory from the jaws of a defeat.

With yet another quarterback injury, this one to backup turned starter Andrew Zimmerman, the Fighting Hawks used a fourth-and-2 defensive stop deep in their own red zone to come away with the 27-23 win over Sam Houston State Saturday, Sept. 14.

“I’m really proud of our team tonight, to really gut one out. It was a real gritty performance,” said UND head coach Bubba Schweigert.

Leading by six with 4 minutes, 31 seconds remaining, the Fighting Hawks (2-1) was pinned at their 2-yard line by a 61 yard punt from Bearkat punter Matt McRoberts. Three plays and three yards later, Cade Peterson came in to punt for UND but instead took the safety. The free kick by Brady Stevens was fielded by Ife Adeyi at the Bearkats’ 15 however, Adeyi returned the kick 32 yards to the Fighting Hawks 47, giving the Bearkats 47 yards to go with 3:29 left on the clock.

“I think it was a smart move,” Bearkats head coach K.C. Keeler said about the UND’s decision to take the safety. “Taking a safety, it’s not like they can get back in it with a 3-pointer so they’ll still need a touchdown so I thought it was a smart move on their part.” 

Seven runs and a pass put the Bearkats (1-2) at UND’s 10 yard line and needing two yards to convert another fourth down, in which the Bearkats were 3-for-3 up to that moment. However, Bearkats quarterback Eric Schmid was stripped sack by Noah Larson and Jalen Morrison’s recovered fumble to seal the win.

“The call at the end of the game, the option of the play that we ran at the end wasn’t what we wanted to get done and so that was a mistake on our part. We’re disappointed but give a lot of credit to North Dakota on how well they played,” said Keeler.

“Our defense was really good for long stretches. To get a stop there on fourth down, I was real proud of the guys. It was a good against a good team and I think we can get a lot but we’ll learn from this win like we did the first two games,” Schweigert said.

Zimmerman, who replaced Nate Ketteringham on opening day, was 2 of 7 and a touchdown pass to Garett Maag before he too left the game injured on the Fighting Hawks third series of the contest. In came true freshman Tommy Schuster, who was 17-for-33 for 165 yards and his 8-yard touchdown pass to Travis Toivonen in the third quarter gave the Fighting Hawks the 13 point cushion needed for the win.

“Tommy is a cold-blooded killer so I wasn’t worried. That kid is something else. I was pretty confident in the whole situation,” said Noah Wanzek. Wanzek finished with nine catches for 109 yards.

The Fighting Hawks led 14-0 after the first quarter but the Bearkats responded. Schmid’s 5-yard touchdown run completed a 10-play, 59 yard drive and the Bearkats tied the score before halftime after Schmid’s 10-yard touchdown completion to Dee Bowens.

Chris Harris can be reached at charris@devilslakejournal.com and on Twitter: @ChrisHarris_DLJ

Sam Houston State at North Dakota box score

Sam Houston St. 0 14 0 9 — 23

UND 14 0 13 0 — 27

First Quarter

UND — Maag 4 pass from Zimmerman (Leach kick), 10:02.

UND — Boltman 56 run (Leach kick), 2:43.

Second Quarter

SHSU — Schmid 5 run (Crow kick), 10:24.

SHSU — Bowens 10 pass from Schmid (Crow kick), 5:14.

Third Quarter

UND — Johannesson 5 run (Leach kick), 13:59.

UND — Toivonen 8 pass from Schuster (kick failed), 8:19.

Fourth Quarter

SHSU — Williams 3 run (Crow kick), 8:39.

SHSU — Safety, 3:38.