No. 8 UND shakes Idaho State troubles in season-opening 35-14 win
The Fighting Hawks intercepted three passes.
POCATELLO, Idaho — University of North Dakota cornerback Evan Holm wasn't available to play in 2019 and was back in Grand Forks, suffering through the broadcast of Idaho State's thumping of the Fighting Hawks.
"Watching it was just really painful, and I know it's personal for me and everyone else," Holm said. "We really wanted to kind of beat the crap out of them."
UND running back Otis Weah was also unavailable to play and watched the 2019 game in Grand Forks.
"We were kind of pissed off about it," Weah said. "We wanted to hear about it because it kept us driven. We felt like we needed to come out here and get the monkey off our back."
On Saturday, Sept. 4, UND showed Idaho State is no longer its kryptonite.
A program that has caused havoc with its passing game, the No. 8 Fighting Hawks intercepted three passes and held the Bengals to 229 yards passing in a convincing 35-14 win Saturday afternoon in front of 4,667 at Holt Arena to jumpstart the 2021 fall season.
"We didn't talk a lot about (the 2019 game) because only five our offensive guys were on that trip," UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. "But our guys knew about it. Right before we left the locker room, they talked to each other about it in a wild way, so I guess I didn't have to mention it."
UND lost to Idaho State in Pocatello 55-20 in 2019. The Hawks had lost to the Bengals three times since 2015.
Holm, Ray Haas and Hayden Galvin — all roommates — each collected interceptions as the pass defense kept Bengals starting quarterback Tyler Vander Waal to a respectable stat line: 19-for-43 with one touchdown.
Idaho State star wide receiver Tanner Conner finished with three catches for 54 yards and a touchdown. Conner was targeted 11 times.
"They have some talented guys and (Conner) was our focus going in," Holm said. "He's really big and physical. We had a couple of (pass interference calls) that could've gone either way, but you have to play physical with them."
Weah, the preseason All-American from Moorhead, scored three touchdowns and finished with 114 yards on 22 carries, as UND used a 14-0 third-quarter advantage to pull away from the Bengals in the second half.
UND sophomore quarterback Tommy Schuster was typically efficient, ending 14-for-18 passing for 183 yards and a 22-yard third-quarter touchdown to tight end Adam Zavalney.
UND, which finished 5-2 and advanced to the FCS quarterfinals last year, won on the road in a season opener for the first time since knocking off Wyoming to open 2015.
The Hawks were a bit slow out of the gates, as Idaho State controlled clock in the first half and a Malakai Rango 1-yard touchdown run with 18 seconds left in the first half made for a 10-7 UND lead at halftime.
It could have been worse at halftime for the Hawks if it weren't for an early goal-line stand in which the Fighting Hawks stuffed four straight plays from the 1-yard line, the last of which turned the ball over on downs on the first play of the second quarter.
UND was able to counter with a field goal on its next possession as it led 10-0 early.
The Fighting Hawks, who developed a reputation for strong third quarters in the spring, continued the trend against Idaho State.
Zavalney's score made it 17-7 with 10:16 left in the third and Weah scored from 15 yards out midway through the quarter as UND led 24-7.
UND outrushed Idaho State 185-72.
The Hawks now have a quick turnaround to play at Utah State at 8 p.m. Friday night in Logan.
"This is great for our team to hopefully carry it into Utah State," Galvin said. "It's definitely different playing on a Friday. I think we'll be ready, though. We'll get back to work tomorrow and be ready."