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Fast start keys Unversity of North Dakota football blowout

GRAND FORKS -- Two years ago, the University of North Dakota football program struggled to keep fans in their seats in the second half thanks to blowout losses.

GRAND FORKS - Two years ago, the University of North Dakota football program struggled to keep fans in their seats in the second half thanks to blowout losses.
On Saturday, UND struggled to keep fans in their seats in the second half for the opposite reason.
UND bolted out to a 35-point halftime lead and then coasted to a 45-14 rout of Northern Colorado in Big Sky Conference play at the Alerus Center.
UND (6-4 overall, 4-3 Big Sky) is now guaranteed to finish with a winning record and, more importantly, kept its FCS playoff hopes afloat. UND ends the year Saturday at Cal Poly.
“Like we talked about all week, this is meaningful football,” UND senior linebacker Will Ratelle said. “We haven’t played meaningful football in November in I don’t know how long. Last year, we were pretty much playing for pride.
“I don’t know what our chances are, but at least we have something to play for and have a chance at the postseason.”
UND racked up more than 400 rushing yards (408) for the second consecutive week. True freshman John Santiago turned 12 carries into 180 yards and two touchdowns, despite not taking a carry in the second half. Iwarri Smith, also a true freshman, added a career-high 100 rushing yards, while Kyle Norberg chipped in 80.
“Their back is a tremendous athlete, and we weren’t finishing on tackles, allowing him to break free on those big plays,” UNC coach Earnest Collins, Jr. said. “We talked about it all week how they were going to run the ball, but it’s hard to simulate that type of play in practice. He was very physical and had good vision for a freshman. He’s going to only get better.
“My hat’s off to North Dakota. They came out and executed their gameplan and we had a hard time adjusting to what they were doing.”
After going through the first eight games with one interception, UND now has five in the past two games with a three-interception showing against the Bears. UND also recovered two fumbles for the second straight week after picking up four through the first eight games.
“I think once it happens, you get a little confidence that you can make plays,” UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. “I think there were some big hits, too, that jarred some balls loose. That’s a little confidence thing. Once you make a few, you get the mindset that you can force a lot of turnovers.”
UND’s defense, which had six sacks and 11 tackles for loss, limited Northern Colorado (5-5 overall, 3-5 Big Sky) to 275 yards of total offense. The Bears came into the game with momentum following a 35-32 upset of No. 9 Portland State last weekend.
UND, however, put a stop to UNC’s momentum behind its largest margin of victory in a conference game since moving to the Division I level in 2008.
On the second play of the game, UND linebacker Brian Labat sat in the flats and returned a Jacob Knipp interception 35 yards for a touchdown.
UND’s offense, meanwhile, didn’t punt in the first half. Keaton Studsrud hit Zach Adler for a 7-yard score early in the second quarter for a 14-0 lead.
From there, Santiago scored on runs of 49 and 81 yards. Norberg’s 19-yard touchdown run with 1:59 left in the first half gave UND a 35-0 halftime lead.
UND scored the first 10 points of the second half, too, as Reid Taubenheim connected on a 26-yard field goal and Smith rushed into the end zone from 34 yards out.
The Bears scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns as UND’s backups played out the win.
“That’s a big win for our program,” Schweigert said. “You want to win in November, and we feel like we’re in the hunt. All we can do is control what we can control. You never know how things are going to go in our league or around the country.”

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