Northern Colorado edges UND in season finaleGREELEY, Colo. — On Saturday, there wouldn’t be another Zeb Miller Miracle at Nottingham Field.
By: Tom Miller, Forum Communications
GREELEY, Colo. — On Saturday, there wouldn’t be another Zeb Miller Miracle at Nottingham Field.
One year after Miller kicked a late 54-yard field goal to beat Northern Colorado, the University of North Dakota opted against a 51-yard Miller attempt and was stuffed on fourth-and-short with 47 seconds remaining to seal the Bears’ 28-27 win.
UND, completing its first season in the Big Sky Conference, finishes the season 5-6 overall and 3-5 in the league. Northern Colorado, meanwhile, closes out the year winning four of its last five games — the only loss a 12-10 setback against Northern Arizona.
The Bears’ four Big Sky wins are the program’s most since joining the league in 2006.
“Fifty-some yards or half of a yard,” UND coach Chris Mussman said of his last-minute decision to run Jer Garman up the middle on fourth-and-1 from the UNC 34. “We had 40-some seconds left. We wanted to leave no doubt. But we didn’t get it done. That’s plain and simple.
“I thought we could get half of a yard. The kids were excited and wanted to go for it, although that’s not why you go for it. Quite frankly, I thought we were out of our (kicking) range.”
After struggling most of the season and in the first half against Northern Colorado, the UND defense made play after play in the second half to give the team a chance to win.
UND’s last opportunity came with 1:17 left when Erik Mersereau returned a punt 25 yards to the UND 41. A few short plays later, UND quarterback Braden Hanson hit Jameer Jackson for 9 yards down to the Bears 34.
On fourth-and-1 with 47 seconds left, Northern Colorado called a timeout. At first, UND lined up to attempt the 51-yard attempt. However, the UND offense came back onto the field and tried to run up the middle with Garman, who was stuffed by UNC linebacker Herve Tonye-Tonye.
“Our guys laid it all out there,” Mussman said. “We just came up short. That’s the name of the game. It’s frustrating right now.”
What started as a shootout, ended in a defensive battle.
Northern Colorado defensive back Marcel Gibbons picked off Hanson twice in the second half, but UND’s Chavon Mackey matched the turnovers with a forced fumble and recovery, as well as an interception in the fourth quarter.
Hanson, a senior transfer from North Carolina, finished the game 34-for-48 for 382 yards and three touchdowns. However, he also threw three interceptions.
“We couldn’t move the ball down the field and get points when we needed to,” Hanson said. “The defense gave us opportunities, but we couldn’t capitalize. They’re a good team, but I wouldn’t say they made any drastic changes in the second half. We just didn’t execute. We settled for field goals when we needed touchdowns, and I threw some bad passes.”
But there was plenty of blame to go around, including UND’s run defense. Northern Colorado running back Tromaine Dennis rushed for a career-high 222 yards on 28 carries. Dennis scored two touchdowns and averaged 7.9 yards per carry.
“We’re outmatched sometimes,” Mussman said. “We’re getting pushed off of the line of scrimmage. Teams are getting to our edge too easily. We have to go out and recruit and get bigger.”
UND 14 10 3 0 — 27
UNC 7 14 7 0 — 28
UNC–Jace Davis 21 pass from Seth Lobato (Dave Eden kick), 9:58.
UND–Greg Hardin 24 pass from Braden Hanson (Zeb Miller kick), 8:36.
UND–Jake Miller 36 pass from Hanson (Z. Miller kick), 1:27.
UNC–Tromaine Dennis 1 run (Eden kick), 11:57.
UND–Seth Wisthoff 1 pass from Hanson (Z. Miller kick), 6:02.
UNC–Dennis 67 run (Eden kick), 4:21.
UND–Z. Miller 27 FG, :03.
UND–Z. Miller 27 FG, 7:07.
UNC–Sawyere Monson 23 pass from Lobato (Eden kick), 4:16.
TEAM STATISTICS UND UNC
First downs 25 22
Rushes-yards 24-82 33-231
Passing yards 382 210
Comp.-Att.-Int. 34-48-3 20-35-1
Total yards 464 441
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-yards 4-40 7-67
Punts-Avg. 3-39 3-35
RUSHING: UND, Jake Miller 12-54, Jer Garman 6-14, Braden Hanson 3-10, Greg Hardin 1-9, Marcus Hendrickson 2-3. UNC, Tromaine Dennis 28-222, Seth Lobato 2-5, Sawyere Monson 1-5.
PASSING: UND, Hanson 34-48-3 382. UNC, Lobato 20-35-1 210.
RECEIVING: UND, Hardin 8-109, Jake Miller 5-77, Jameer Jackson 7-73, Kenny Golladay 4-52, Blair Townsend 5-39, Ethan Magstadt 2-15, Seth Wisthoff 2-9, Zach Adler 1-8. UNC, Dimitri Stimphil 6-52, Jace Davis 4-51, Dominic Gunn 3-34, Monson 1-23, Will Jefferson Jr. 2-22, Austin Wilbers 3-18, Doug Steele 1-10.