Aztecs beat UND in shootoutSAN DIEGO — No longer is UND just content to play guarantee games against FBS opponents, especially after its gritty performance against San Diego State on Saturday night.
By: WAYNE NELSON , Forum Communications
By Wayne Nelson
SAN DIEGO — No longer is the University of North Dakota football team just content to play guarantee games against FBS opponents, especially after its rollercoaster ride against San Diego State on Saturday night.
No longer will UND be happy to simply cash the check a guarantee game brings.
The mission now is to finish the deal, which UND couldn’t do in its 49-41 loss against San Diego State on Saturday night before 24,826 fans at Qualcomm Stadium.
It was UND’s sixth straight loss against an FBS opponent since the Green and White became a Division I FCS program in 2008.
The consolation prize is that UND, overall, had its best outing against an FBS opponent in the school’s Division I era.
But consolation prizes are getting old.
“Our expectations are higher than that,” UND coach Chris Mussman said. “We came in here and expected to win a football game. A lot of people probably didn’t believe that but after what they saw tonight, they can believe it.
“Our expectations in this program have risen. It’s not just about keeping the score down and try to get out of the game and collect the paycheck. It’s about coming here and trying to win football games.”
UND lost by five points at Fresno State last year, but played a much better game against a Mountain West Conference team that has appeared in bowl games the past two seasons.
“This one hurt,” said UND receiver Greg Hardin.
It hurt, primarily, because of another dazzling offensive performance by UND’s offense.
Behind quarterback Marcus Hendrickson and Hardin, UND was hanging around in the fourth quarter.
Hendrickson’s 15-yard scoring pass to Tyhre Ivery with 6:17 to go cut SDSU’s lead to 49-41 in a game that earlier had the makings of an Aztecs’ rout.
SDSU, however, responded behind a powerful running game.
The Aztecs, behind 229 combined rushing yards from Walter Kazee and Adam Muema, pushed the ball to the UND 29 before the Green and White took over with 1:52 to play.
UND picked up a first down on its ensuing possession but Hendrickson’s fourth-down pass to Mitch Sutton came up inches short in front of the UND bench with 1:10 to play. The Aztecs ran out the clock.
“We were a chain link short of converting that first down,” Mussman said.
As UND prepares for next Saturday’s Big Sky Conference opener, however, it’s apparent that the program has one of its more prolific offenses in school history.
Hendrickson threw for 434 yards and Hardin, for the second-straight week, dominated — catching 8 passes for 142 yards and three touchdowns.
“Our wide outs are winning the one-on-one matchups,” Hendrickson said. “You just step up and deliver the ball. These guys were recruited here because they’re talented.”
But UND again struggled to run the ball, finishing with 55 yards on 27 attempts.
And that was a big difference as SDSU’s balanced offense kept Aztec scoring drives alive most of the night.
UND dug itself a 14-0 hole in the first quarter but cut it to 14-7 on the first of three Hendrickson-to-Hardin touchdowns. But that momentum was short lived as a penalty for running into the kicker on SDSU’s next possession allowed the drive to continue.
And Ryan Katz capitalized by hitting Colin Lockett for a 37-yard TD and a 21-7 Aztec lead.
From there, UND was in catch-up mode the rest of the night.
Katz’s 20-yard TD pass to Gavin Escobar, which was reviewed by officials, put SDSU up 35-17 late in the first half.
UND’s defense, however, did give its offense a chance to tie the game in the final minutes by stopping an Aztec drive. But for much of the night, it had difficulty getting off the field in crucial situations.
“What you saw out there was the result of our week of practice defensively,” Mussman said. “Thursday was not a good day of practice for us defensively.”
Still, Mussman said UND had a chance for a tie late in the game.
“We told our guys to get us to the fourth quarter and give us an opportunity to win a game,” Mussman said. “It may not be the style UND is used to, but you know what, maybe that’s the style we have to play now.”
San Diego State finished with 533 yards, behind the hard running of Kazee and Muema.
And Katz threw for 241 yards and three touchdowns.
UND dropped to 2-1 and will play its first official Big Sky Conference opponent next Saturday at Sacramento State.
UND 14 6 7 14 — 41
SDSU 21 14 7 7 — 49
SDSU–Leon McFadden 27 interception return (Chance Marden kick), 13:15
SDSU–Brice Butler 44 pass from Ryan Katz (Marden kick), 9:53
UND–Greg Hardin 53 pass from Marcus Hendrickson (Zeb Miller), 8:44
SDSU–Colin Lockett 37 pass from Katz (Marden kick), 5:36
UND–Hardin 7 pass from Hendrickson (Miller kick), 5:30
SDSU–Adam Muema 15 run (Marden kick), 15:00
UND–Miller 34 FG, 9:10
SDSU–Gavin Escobar 20 pass from Katz (Marden kick), 6:10
UND–Miller 43 FG, :45
UND–Mitch Sutton 1 run (Miller kick), 6:52
SDSU–Walter Kazee 11 run (Marden kick), 5:13
UND–Hardin pass from Hendrickson (Miller kick), 15:00
SDSU–Kazee 1 run (Marden kick), 11:15
UND–Tyrhe Ivery 12 pass from Hendrickson (Miller kick)
TEAM STATISTICS UND SDSU
First downs 26 27
Rushes-yards 27-55 44-297
Passing yards 436 242
Comp.-Att.-Int. 27-50-1 11-18-0
Total yards 419 539
Fumbles-lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 0-0 8-85
Punts-Avg. 2-53.5 2-47.5
RUSHING: UND, Hendricks 10-47, Sutton 8-24, Jake Miller 7-4. SDSU, Muema 12-122, Kazee 21-117, Katz 8-60, Ezell Ruffin 1-2.
PASSING: UND, Hendrickson 27-50-1 436. SDSU, Katz 11-18-0 242.
RECEIVING: UND, Hardin 9-147, Jameer Jackson 6-95, R.J. McGill 4-70, Sutton 2-51, Kenny Galloday 3-49, Ivery 1-12, Ethan Magstadt 1-11, Seth Wisthoff 1-1. SDSU, Escobar 5-116, Butler 3-68, Lockett 1-37, Rob Andrews 1-13, Chad Young 1-8.