GRAND FORKS, N.D. – The No. 24 Sam Houston State Bearkats had things all tied up at the half, but North Dakota put up 14 unanswered points to start the second half and held on to hand the Kats a 27-23 defeat on Saturday afternoon at the Alerus Center.
It was the second straight year for the Fighting Hawks (2-1) to hand the Kats (1-2) a defeat after doing so last year in Huntsville. UND pulled the feat behind true freshman quarterback Tommy Schuster who took over for starter Andrew Zimmerman in the first quarter and went on to throw for 165 yards and a touchdown.
SHSU trailed 27-14 going into the fourth quarter, but drew back to within a score on a touchdown run by Donovan Williams and added a safety to get to 27-23. A strong kick return by Ife Adeyi set the Kats up near midfield for one last drive in the final minutes and SHSU advanced it down to the UND 10, but came up short on fourth down for the only time in four tries in the game.
The Bearkats entered the game averaging more than 500 of yards of offense, but turned the ball over three times and were held to just 280 yards in the game, including 113 in the second half.
Eric Schmid finished with 114 yards passing and 53 more on the ground, accounting for a pair of scores. Williams led the rushing attack with 56 yards and a score, while Dee Bowens had seven grabs for 40 yards and a score.
Defensively, SHSU had a pair of takeaways of their own and held the Hawks to just 281 for the game, including just 91 on the ground. The Kats ran 15 more plays and held the ball for eight minutes longer than the Hawks, but were also hampered by nine penalties.
HOW IT HAPPENED IN THE FIRST HALF
The Fighting Hawks turned in picks on each of the first two drives of the game, and took advantage of their second try when Zimmerman connected with Garrett Maag in the left corner of the end zone for a 4-yard score less than five minutes into the game.
They pushed that lead to 14-0 seven minutes later when Brock Boltmann got free for a 56-yard touchdown run back up the middle. Meanwhile, the Bearkat offense struggled to get going after a pair of first downs on its opening drive, finishing with just 40 yards of offense in the period.
But the second period was nearly all Bearkats as Schmid led the Kats to a pair of scoring drives to even it up. The Kats converted fourth-down tries on three straight drives to keep the ball moving, twice converting them into points. The first came from Schmid’s feet as he scampered in from five yards out, just one play after converting a 4th-and-6 inside the Hawk 20. One drive later Schmid kept the drive alive with a 12-yard run on fourth down and three plays later connected with Bowens for a 10-yard score to even it up at 14-14.
SHSU finished with 127 yards of offense in the quarter, meanwhile the defense stepped up its game as well, holding UND to just 23 yards on 12 plays. Jahari Kay pounced on a fumble by Schuster inside the UND 30, but after another fourth-down conversion kept the drive alive at the UND 12, the Kats came up empty after a missed field goal try with under a minute to go until the break.
HOW IT HAPPENED IN THE SECOND HALF
The Hawks wasted no time out of the locker room, going 63 yards on the first three plays of the half to retake the lead, 21-14, on a 5-yard run from James Johanneson. The third Bearkat interception of the game followed, setting UND up once again as they used up eight plays to get 30 yards to paydirt, ending when Schuster connected with Travis Toivonen from eight yards away to push the lead to 27-14.
It looked as though the Hawks were in control moving to the fourth quarter, but an interception by Zyon McCollum with 12:18 to go gave the Kats new life. The junior’s second pick of the year set the Kats up at the UND 41 and they would go on to take it the rest of the way on 10 plays, ending in Williams’ 3-yard plunge with 12:18 to go.
The defense stepped up again on the following series, getting a key fourth-down stop to turn the ball over. The offense would then go 3-and-out on their side, but punter Matt McRobert let loose a 61-yard punt that was downed at the UND 2-yard line. SHSU was able to hold firm and rather than punt the ball away, the Hawks chose to take a safety to push the score to 27-23 with 3:38 to go.
The Kats go 3-and-out, but McRobert pins the Hawks up against their own goal line.— Sam Houston State Football (@BearkatsFB) September 15, 2019
Need a stop here. #EatEmUpKats
Adeyi then gave the Kats life with a return near midfield and the SHSU offense went to work, getting big plays from Kyran Jackson and Coree Compton to work the ball into the red zone. But UND was finally able to get the stop they needed on fourth down when it stopped Schmid short of the line to gain with just 1:06 to go.
The Bearkats return to the friendly confines of Bowers Stadium where they will kick off Southland Conference play on Saturday against Incarnate Word. The game is set for 6:00 p.m. and will be aired on ESPN3.