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UND hangs with Bobcats

BOZEMAN, Mont. -- For the first time since joining the Big Sky Conference, the University of North Dakota football team wasn't blown out by usual league front-runner Montana State.

BOZEMAN, Mont. - For the first time since joining the Big Sky Conference, the University of North Dakota football team wasn’t blown out by usual league front-runner Montana State.
In fact, the No. 13-ranked Bobcats actually had to sweat out a UND fourth-quarter rally.
But the Bobcats used a 23-point second quarter, highlighted by a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown by Khari Garcia, to beat North Dakota 29-18 on homecoming before 19,477 fans at Bobcat Stadium.
“(Montana State) is a very talented program,” UND quarterback Joe Mollberg said. “But we’re here to stay and ready to build now. We just have to keep going up.”
UND, which dropped to 2-3 overall and 0-1 in Big Sky play, had lost to Montana State (3-2, 1-0) by a combined score of 118-30 the past two seasons.
“Overall, I’m excited about our effort,” UND head coach Bubba Schweigert said. “Our guys play hard.”
With the Bobcats leading 26-7 at halftime and UND’s only score coming off a defensive touchdown, the matchup appeared destined for a third-straight rout.
But UND allowed only three points in the second half. UND limited Montana State to 329 yards of total offense, roughly 150 yards short of the team’s average.
“I don’t know what the difference was in the second half,” said UND linebacker Will Ratelle, who led the team with nine tackles. “We came out and played with great effort. It would have been better to win this game, but our offense, defense and special teams played well in the fourth quarter. That’s good to take the momentum into next week.”
Mostly, UND corralled talented MSU quarterback Dakota Prukop, who carried 11 times for a minus-18 yards.
Prukop, however, was effective through the air as he finished 17-for-24 passing for 269 yards and a touchdown.
The Bobcats, who came into the game averaging more than 40 points per game, were held to three points in the first quarter.
However, Mollberg’s interception for a touchdown resulted in a 10-0 lead for the Bobcats early in the second quarter.
“That was a terrible read on my part,” said Mollberg, who finished 22 for 37 passing for a season-high 222 yards. “I was a little flustered at the time. At the Division I level, you can’t allow yourself to do that.”
Montana State controlled the rest of the quarter with a steady wind at its back, while UND’s offense couldn’t sustain drives. The Bobcats pushed their lead with a 16-yard Shawn Johnson run and a 26-yard touchdown catch by Mitchell Herbert from Prukop.
“We didn’t get enough first downs with the wind at their back in the second quarter,” Schweigert said. “We got those first downs in the second half.”
UND made Montana State work for the win in the fourth quarter after Mollberg connected with R.J. McGill for an 8-yard touchdown pass. Mollberg added a two-point conversion pass to tight end Zach Adler as UND cut the MSU lead to 29-18 with 5:13 to play.
UND’s final offensive possession ended with 25 seconds left on the clock when kicker Reid Taubenheim had a 53-yard field goal attempt blocked. MSU recovered and ran out the final seconds.
Mollberg was happy with his team’s resolve after falling behind in the first half.
“It showed the toughness we have,” Mollberg said. “We have to keep pushing forward, but I won’t be happy until we get that ‘W.’”

UND 0 7 3 8 - 18
MSU 3 23 0 3 - 29
First quarter
MSU–Luke Daly 34 FG, 6:11
Second quarter
MSU–Khari Garcia 45 interception return (Daly kick), 14:05
MSU–Shawn Johnson 16 run (run failed), 10:18
UND–Will Ratelle 25 fumble return (Reid Taubenheim kick), 7:37
MSU–Mitchell Herbert 26 pass from Dakota Prukop (Daly kick), 2:56
MSU–Daly 38 FG, :18
Third quarter
UND–Taubenheim 33 FG, 6:32
Fourth quarter
MSU–Daly 32 FG, 13:59
UND–R.J. McGill 8 pass from Joe Mollberg (Zach Adler pass from Mollberg), 5:13
TEAM STATISTICS UND MSU
First downs 17 16
Rushes-yards 32-71 36-62
Passing yards 222 267
Comp.-Att.-Int. 22-37-1 18-26-0
Total yards 293 329
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-yards 3-15 6-70
Punts-Avg. 7-31.3 5-43.8
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING: UND, Kyle Norberg 19-73, Jer Garman 4-20, Miguel Cerriteno 1-1, TEAM 4-(minus 10), Joe Mollberg 4-(minus 13). MSU, Shawn Johnson 15-75, Gunnar Brekke 6-20, Chad Newell 2-4, Dakota Prukop 11-(minus 18), TEAM 2-(minus 19).
PASSING: UND, Mollberg 22-37-1 222. MSU, Prukop 17-24-0 269; TEAM 0-1-0 0; Brekke 1-1-0 (minus 2).
RECEIVING: UND, Dev Ferguson 3-80, R.J. McGill 7-63, Cerriteno 4-26, Dustin Iverson 3-16, Zach Adler 3-14, Brandon Walker 1-12, Garman 1-11. MSU, Jayshawn Gates 3-85, Justin Paige 4-64, Mitchell Herbert 3-57, Tiaj Salanoa 1-18, Mitch Griebel 2-16, Shawn Johnson 2-13, Newell 1-9, Will Krolick 1-7, Prukop 1-(minus 2).

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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