UND rolls to 34-10 win over Western Illinois in Otis Weah's return to the lineup

Weah racks up 198 all-purpose yards to lead Fighting Hawks to home win.

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University of North Dakota running back Otis Weah looks for extra yardage against Western Illinois on Oct. 23, 2021, at the Alerus Center. Nick Nelson/Grand Forks Herald.

Not only was UND running back Otis Weah back in the lineup Saturday, but he looked like the Otis Weah of the spring.

Weah, who missed last weekend's game at Southern Illinois with an illness, racked up 198 all-purpose yards as the Fighting Hawks beat Western Illinois 34-10 on homecoming at the Alerus Center.

The Fighting Hawks racked up 607 yards of total offense, breaking the 600-yard mark for the first time since winning at Sacramento State in 2018. UND outrushed Western Illinois 261 to 38.

"He creates big plays for us and that's why it's important to have him," UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. "He gives us a boost. He's tough to bring down. He was ready to go today and that was great to see."

Weah ran for 125 yards on 18 carries and had three catches for 73 yards. He showcased the explosiveness that has eluded the preseason All-American this fall. Weah, who entered the game with a season-long rush of 16 yards and a season-long catch of 8 yards, had a 64-yard run and a 59-yard catch against the Leathernecks.


UND snapped a three-game losing skid, improving to 3-4 overall and 1-3 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

Wide receiver Bo Belquist finished with 142 receiving yards, while backup running back Gaven Ziebarth, a true freshman seeing his first extended action, finished with 110 yards on 15 carries. Ziebarth became UND's fourth back this season (Weah, Luke Skokna and Isaiah Smith) to break 100 yards in a game.

Ziebarth's performance was necessary as UND played without Skokna and Smith. Both players sat out with injuries.

"We had to win one and win out to make the playoffs, so we had to get together this week and get the win," Belquist said.

Apart from one first-quarter 51-yard passing play for a touchdown from Connor Sampson to Dallas Daniels, UND's defense kept Western Illinois in check most of the game.

The Leathernecks were led by Sampson, who was 25-for-38 passing for 271 yards. He also had two interceptions and was sacked three times. The Hawks now have had at least three sacks in each of their last three games.

"We knew they were going to throw the ball a lot, and we just had to stay deep in coverage," UND safety Hayden Galvin said.

UND's early-season penalty troubles were also a non-factor as the Hawks were penalized less than 20 yards (3 for 18) for the second week in a row.


The Hawks struck on trick plays against WIU, finishing with three different passers throwing touchdowns. Wide receiver Jake Richter took a reverse and passed it 45 yards to Belquist for a first-quarter touchdown.

In the third quarter, UND pushed a 17-10 lead to 24-10 when wide receiver and former quarterback Brock Boltmann caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Schuster.

Later in the quarter, Boltmann took a jet sweep handoff and passed back to quarterback Quincy Vaughn, who had plenty of room to score a 15-yard touchdown catch.

UND kicker Brady Stevens, who kicked field goals for the third week in a row with starter Adam Stage hurt, made both of his field goals of 22 and 23 yards.

UND travels to Missouri State next weekend in a pivotal matchup for both teams' playoff hopes.

"They're a good football team," Galvin said. "They're going to give us their best shot. We have to be ready."

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019 and 2022.

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, or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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