North Dakota Overcomes Pair of Red Zone Fumbles for 31-24 Victory

North Dakota Overcomes Pair of Red Zone Fumbles for 31-24 Victory


GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Junior quarterback Keaton Studsrud threw two touchdowns passes and ran for another as North Dakota overcame a 14-10 third-quarter deficit for a 31-24 upset of No. 16/18 Cal Poly in a Big Sky Conference football game Saturday afternoon in the Alerus Center.

Studsrud completed 15 of 21 passes for 249 yards and scoring strikes of three yards to Noah Wanzek in the third quarter, erasing the four-point Mustang lead, and 74 yards to Luke Stanley early in the final period.

While North Dakota improved to 3-2 overall and 2-0 in Big Sky games, Cal Poly had a three-game winning streak snapped and fell to 3-2 and 1-1.

Trailing 10-0 late in the second quarter, Cal Poly took advantage of North Dakota's second fumble in the red zone and drove 79 yards on nine plays to get on the scoreboard for the first time. Senior quarterback Dano Graves hit junior slot back Kori Garcia with a 13-yard touchdown pass.

Cal Poly also received the kickoff opening the second half and Graves capped a 75-yard, 13-play drive with a 24-yard scoring pass to former Folsom High School teammate Carson McMurtrey. It was the first touchdown catch as a Mustang for the fifth-year senior and gave Cal Poly a 14-10 lead.

North Dakota regained the lead with a 38-yard run by Brady Oliveira and a 74-yard scoring pass from Studsrud for a 31-17 advantage.

Cal Poly mounted a late comeback. Graves hit McMurtrey with a 25-yard scoring pass with 4:21 to play and the Mustangs got the ball back for one more chance to tie the game, but after driving to the North Dakota two-yard line, Graves was intercepted in the end zone by Torrey Hunt and the Fighting Hawks were able to run out the clock.

Graves completed his first seven pass attempts of the game and finished 15 of 21 for 219 yards and three touchdowns. Junior slot back Kyle Lewis caught four passes for 33 yards.

Cal Poly's ground game, No. 1 in the Football Championship Subdivision averaging 362.8 yards a contest, was held to just 202 yards by North Dakota's defense, which entered the game with the best defense in the Big Sky against the rush.

Without junior fullback Joe Protheroe in the lineup due to injury, the Mustangs turned to junior fullback Jared Mohamed (pictured above) and he responded with 96 yards on 22 carries. Garcia added 59 yards on six trips.

Cal Poly had more yards passing than rushing for the first time this season. North Dakota held the Mustangs to 153 yards rushing and 211 passing in the 2015 season finale at Alex G. Spanos Stadium.

Cal Poly produced just one first down in the opening 28 minutes of the game before scoring late in the first half.

Oliveira rushed 20 times for 127 yards and one score for North Dakota. Studsrud's favorite target was Wanzek with six catches for 58 yards.

Linebacker Chris Santini made 11 tackles for Cal Poly, which did not score a touchdown by rushing for the first time since the 2012 playoff game against Sam Houston State.

Cal Poly has a bye next week and returns to Big Sky play Oct. 15 at Portland State.