FRESNO, Calif. -- Fresno State overcame a fourth-quarter deficit and a career rushing performance by North Dakota sophomore Jake Miller to edge the Fighting Sioux 27-22 on Saturday at Bulldog Stadium.
Robbie Rouse's 1-yard touchdown run with 9:14 left in the fourth quarter held up as the winning score, dashing UND's hopes of earning the program's first win over a Football Bowl Subdivision team.
“Our guys continued to battle throughout. There is no such thing as a moral victory," UND head coach Chris Mussman said. "We lost the game, but I’m proud of their effort and proud of what they did for this program today and hopefully we can build on that.”
Miller's third of three rushing scores, a 1-yard plunge with nine seconds left in third quarter, gave UND (1-2) a 22-21 lead over a Fresno State program that had defeated its previous eight Football Championship Subdivision opponents by an average of 28 points.
Miller, a Bismarck, N.D., native, finished with a career-high 145 yards on 21 carries, adding touchdowns on runs of 70 yards (first quarter) and five yards (third quarter). He keyed a UND ground attack that racked up 216 rushing yards and allowed the Sioux to claim a 32:22-27:38 edge in time of possession.
Junior running back Mitch Sutton managed to gain 70 yards on just eight carries before leaving the game due to injury.
UND's offense gained 323 total yards, compared to 319 by the Bulldogs. Sophomore kicker Zeb Miller accounted for UND's other points with a career-best 49-yard field goal with 46 seconds left in the first quarter.
Defensively, junior lineman Ross Brenneman sacked Bulldogs' quarterback Derek Carr twice. Brenneman anchored a stout Sioux defense that held the Bulldogs to just 84 yards on the ground.
Carr made his mark in the first quarter and his two, long scoring tosses to Jalen Saunders in the opening 15 minutes proved to be just enough for the Bulldogs to pick up their first win of the season. The first connection went for 86 yards and came on the first offensive play of the game on the new artificial turf at Bulldog Stadium.
The duo would account for the second touchdown from 54 yards out as the Bulldogs jumped out to a 14-0 lead midway through the stanza.
“There were some things in there that needed to happen for us to win that game and the special teams play on the one punt return and the two big ones over the top really hurt.”
Fortunately, Miller did not take long to answer that second score, taking the first play of the ensuing possession a career long 70 yards to put UND on the scoreboard.
Trailing 21-9 at the half, Miller and company came out of the gates quick to make it a one-score contest early in the third quarter. The sophomore ran 28 yards on the first play of the half, which was followed by a 27-yard reception by Greg Hardin to put UND on the five-yard line. Miller found the red-and-white checkered endzone for the second time on the next play.
Carr was 5-for-5 in the opening quarter for 177 yards through the air, but went just 6-for-12 for 58 yards after the fast start.
UND quarterback Joey Bradley overcame a slow start that saw him complete just one pass in the opening half. He completed 11-of-16 passes for 95 yards in the second half. He converted a trio of third downs on the go-ahead touchdown drive.
Sophomore R.J. McGill led the Sioux with five catches for 31 yards. Senior Dan Hendrickson led the Sioux with six solo tackles, while classmate Mitch Kudrna added five.