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Photo courtesy Portland State. The UND football lost to Portland State, which used a late rally to beat North Dakota.
PSU uses fourth-quarter comeback to knock off UND
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Updated: Saturday 10/26/2013 23:35:35 (ET)
by UNDsports.com
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PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland State overcame a shaky start and took advantage of two special teams miscues in the fourth quarter by North Dakota to prevail 14-10 in Big Sky play Saturday at JELD-WEN Field.

The Vikings (4-4, 1-3 BSC) had missed on some opportunities to score in the first three quarters, but senior D.J. Adams capped two short-field situations late in the game with rushing touchdowns to help the home team complete a fourth-quarter comeback and give PSU its first league win of the season.

UND (2-6, 1-4 BSC) held one of the top offenses in the FCS off the scoreboard through three quarters, but the defense was put in those tough situations late in the contest that finally saw the Vikings get on the scoreboard.

PSU blocked a Mitch Meindel punt to set up Adams’ first scoring run, then on the next UND possession, Meindel could not handle the snap and was stopped short of a first down after taking off with the loose ball. Adams would cash in on the first play from scrimmage this time, racing in from 15 yards out to give the Vikings two touchdowns in a 90-second span.

“We had to make one play offensively in the second half and just did not do it, which was frustrating,” head coach Chris Mussman said. “I thought the defense played outstanding. They were put in tough spots and kept coming through with big plays. This was a tough way to lose a ball game.”

After Adams gave the home team the lead for the first time, UND had two more chances to score, but came up empty on both attempts. After racking up 201 yards of offense in the first half, UND could net only 37 after halftime.

Freshman Joe Mollberg finished 15-for-32 for 197 yards and connected with senior Greg Hardin on an 80-yard scoring strike in the first half that helped stake the visitors to a 10-0 lead. Hardin finished with seven catches for 128 yards, which was the 13th 100-yard game of his career.

The game started out as a defensive struggle and it continued that way throughout. After the teams exchanged punts on their respective opening drives, Mollberg found Hardin on the quick-hitter at the UND 20-yard line and the speedy senior did the rest, covering 80 yards for his fourth touchdown reception of the season.

Sophomore Kenny Golladay provided a key block on what was Hardin’s 30th career receiving touchdown, which put UND ahead 7-0. That would be the only touchdown of the game for the visitors, however, as Meindel was forced to punt eight times.

PSU could not take advantage of the game’s first turnover when Nick Fernandez missed a 32-yard field goal attempt after David Edgerson intercepted a Joe Mollberg pass near midfield and returned it to the UND 32-yard line.

On UND’s next possession, Mollberg marched UND down the field on a 16-play, 76-yard drive midway through the second quarter. Unfortunately, the sustained drive only netted three points after the rookie missed on three passes inside the 10-yard line.

UND settled for a 22-yard field goal by Zeb Miller to push the advantage to 10-0. The Vikings appeared poised to finally put points on the board, but PSU starting quarterback Keiran McDonagh, who did most of his damage in the first half on the ground, threw a costly interception after taking his team down to the UND five-yard line.

Junior Daryl Brown stepped in front of McDonagh’s first-and-goal pass to stop that chance, but the Vikings forced a quick three-and-out and burned their timeouts to give them one more shot at scoring in the first half.

Fernandez came up empty again, however, this time missing from 33 yards out as time expired to keep the visitors ahead 10-0 at halftime. The opening-half shutout was the first for UND in Big Sky play since joining the league last season – 12 games. Freshman Cam Kuksa had seven of his career-high 13 tackles in the opening 30 minutes. Senior Garrison Goodman added nine tackles.

PSU tried a new quarterback and field goal kicker in the third quarter, but got the same results. Junior  Ben Henson blocked a 44-yard attempt by Marcus Kinsella on a drive engineered by back-up quarterback Paris Penn to keep UND’s advantage at 10-0 midway through the stanza.

The Vikings’ defense tightened in the third quarter, forcing UND to punt on each of its three possessions, but the home team’s offensive struggles continued as well.

McDonagh came back in for PSU’s final drive of the third quarter and nearly coughed the ball up again, but a Kasey Closs recovered his fumble forced by Will Lewis near midfield.  The drive would end with another Vikings’ punt.

McDonagh had 71 rushing yards in the first half and added 98 through the air as PSU held a nearly 10-minute advantage in time of possession and a 231 to 201 edge in total offense.

McDonagh and Adams both finished with 100-yard rushing efforts, as Adams had 100 of his game-high 111 yards after the break. Three different PSU quarterbacks finished 13-for-26 through the air for 111 yards.

GAME NOTES: Captains for today’s game were seniors Garrison Goodman, Blair Townsend, Jake Hoerchner and Seth Stanchik … Senior Greg Hardin posted the 13th 100-yard receiving game of his career and fourth of the season with seven catches for 128 yards … Hardin’s 80-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter was the 30th of his career and fourth this season … With his seven catches, Hardin moved into sole possession of second place on UND’s career receptions chart in overall games (includes DII playoffs) with 190 … Hardin’s touchdown reception was the first for UND since the Montana State game (Sept. 28) … With a 10-0 lead at halftime, it marked the first time UND had shutout in opponent in the first half in Big Sky play (12 games) … Junior Daryl Brown’s interception on the UND one-yard line in the second quarter was the third of his career and first of the season … Freshman Cam Kuksa made a career-high 13 tackles, including 11 solo stops.

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