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UND football stays undefeated in Big Sky with Southern Utah win

GRAND FORKS -- Celebrating is its 100th homecoming on Saturday, the Fighting Hawks' football team gave the University of North Dakota's alumni a lot to cheer about.

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University of North Dakota running back Brady Oliveira (5) runs against Southern Utah linebacker Mike Needham (34) for a gain in the first half of the game against Thunderbirds at the Alerus Center during the homecoming game on Saturday, Oct. 15, in Grand Forks, N.D. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)

GRAND FORKS - Celebrating is its 100th homecoming on Saturday, the Fighting Hawks' football team gave the University of North Dakota's alumni a lot to cheer about.

UND won its fifth-straight game and remained atop the Big Sky Conference standings with a 45-23 win over Southern Utah at the Alerus Center.

UND quarterback Keaton Studsrud passed for a career-high 282 yards and four touchdowns as the Fighting Hawks earned their longest winning streak since starting the 2007 season 6-0.

"We think it's a good win and it's always fun to win homecoming," UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. "We're maturing as a team, but are we where we need to be? I don't think so. We're going to push our guys to be better and better."

No. 22 UND (5-2, 5-0 Big Sky) pulled away from the Thunderbirds (3-3, 2-2) behind a balanced attack that dominated time of possession (39:36 to 20:24).

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UND had seven running backs carry the ball and seven receivers catch passes. UND's leading rusher was actually fullback Kyle Norberg, who had six carries for 73 yards.

Brady Oliveira, who entered the game with three straight 100-yard rushing performances, added 12 carries for 64 yards.

John Santiago, an All-American in his 2015 rookie season, rushed 15 times for 56 yards. Austin Gordon, who ran for more than 100 yards last week, added five carries for 33 yards.

As a team, the Fighting Hawks ran for 255 yards compared to Southern Utah's 51.

Southern Utah put a scare into UND in the first quarter, jumping out to a 14-7 lead. After UND opened the scoring with a Luke Stanley 9-yard touchdown catch, Raysean Pringle returned the ensuing kickoff 97 yards to even the score. The Thunderbirds then took the lead on a Brady Measom 68-yard touchdown catch, where Measom received a third-down swing pass and juked safety Tanner Palmborg en route to a score.

UND responded with two second-quarter touchdowns to take the lead for good. Oliveira scored on a 15-yard draw play to tie the score at 14, then Santiago scored from 4 yards out on a scoring drive set up by a 31-yard rumble by Norberg, who came into the game with 28 rushing yards on the season.

The Thunderbirds started strong in the second half, though. The Thunderbirds marched their first offensive possession down the field and quarterback Patrick Tyler hit Mike Sharp for a 31-yard touchdown to cut UND's lead to 28-23.

UND, however, would register the final three scores of the game. Reid Taubenheim hit a 29-yard field goal, Travis Toivonen caught a 27-yard touchdown pass and Demun Mercer caught a 13-yard touchdown pass.

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Southern Utah finished with 356 yards of total offense, led by Tyler, who passed for 288 yards. He also threw two interceptions. SUU wide receiver Mike Sharp had 13 catches for 148 yards.

"We're not good enough and that's on me first and foremost," Southern Utah coach Demario Warren said. "We have to do a better job getting prepared to play 60 minutes and go into a hostile environment and win a game."

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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