GRAND FORKS, N.D. — The 20th-ranked North Dakota football team reeled off its third straight win behind a four-touchdown effort from running back Jake Miller (Bismarck, N.D.) as the Fighting Sioux trounced Montana Western, 42-9, in non-conference action Saturday at the Alerus Center.
The Sioux (4-2, 1-0 GWC) actually trailed 3-0 entering the second quarter, but Miller’s first of four rushing scores from three yards out put UND ahead for good just two minutes into the stanza.
The deficit could have been worse as those initial three points by UMW (1-5, 1-4 FC) came after a nearly eight-minute drive to open the contest.
UND went three-and-out on its opening possession of the game, giving the Bulldogs another chance to drive down the field. The visitors once again managed to move the ball into field goal range, but this time reserve center Shea Walker (St. Paul, Minn.) blocked a 49-yard attempt by Yim Sribenjakul.
Walker’s first career block and the sixth by the Sioux this season set up Miller’s first touchdown. The shifty sophomore rushed 20 times for 152 yards and scored a career-high four touchdowns as the UND ground attack continued its dominance of late. A quintet of Sioux rushers accounted for 224 yards and five touchdowns in the contest.
“We ran it effectively again today, but not as good as we would have wanted too early on,” UND head coach Chris Mussman said. “We were not sharp in the first quarter and you have to give them credit for coming out and being ready to play. I thought the third quarter was really the only good quarter of football we played today, but it was enough to get another win and we’ll take it.”
The defense had a difficult time stopping the Bulldogs from amassing yardage early on, but when it came to preventing points - the unit was up to the task. Junior Erik Mersereau (Port Washington, Wis.) came up with an interception in the end zone on a third-and-goal play from the UND six-yard line. It was the first of three second-quarter turnovers by UMW that proved costly. Mersereau also finished with a game-high eight tackles, which were also a new career high.
Mersereau’s first pick of the season kept the Sioux in the lead at 7-3, but the Bulldogs would force yet another punt. Fortunately for UND, UMW running back T.J. Leep mishandled the 40-yard effort by Brett Cameron (Winnipeg, Manitoba) and senior Justin Belotti (Kenosha, Wis.) was there to pounce on the loose ball at UMW 20-yard line.
Two plays later, Miller found the end zone on a two-yard plunge to make it a 14-3 contest.
Sophomore Cordero Finley (Kenosha, Wis.) picked off McRae on the sidelines on the second play of the next possession to set up a Joey Bradley three-yard touchdown run and close the half with a 21-6 advantage.
The Sioux signal caller would go 7-for-10 for 105 yards after the break to ignite the passing game as UND would score touchdowns on all three of its possessions in the third quarter to push the advantage to 42-6. Bradley finished the contest 9-for-14 through the air for 117 yards.
Miller scored the first two touchdowns of the second half on runs of three and four yards before Bradley found sophomore R.J. McGill (Phoenix, Ariz) late in the quarter for his first career touchdown. The 13-yard scoring strike capped a five-play, 85-yard drive that saw McGill account for 66 of those yards on three receptions.
Sophomore Greg Hardin (Bellevue, Neb.) added a team-high five receptions for 42 yards.
Sribenjakul would cap the scoring with a 28-yard field goal in the second half, but it was not enough for the NAIA squad to prevent Mussman from securing his first three-game winning streak since opening his tenure as the head coach in 2008.
Game captains were seniors Catlin Solum, Dan Hendrickson, Brandon Quesenberry and Justin Belotti … The three-game winning streak is the second of head coach Chris Mussman’s tenure at UND and first since he opened his career with four-straight triumphs in 2008 … UND is 3-0 at the Alerus Center this season and has outscored its opponents 111-28 in those contests … Belotti’s second-quarter fumble recovery was the first of his career … Sophomore Cordero Finley (Kenosha, Wis.) picked off his first career pass in the second quarter … The second-quarter interception by Erik Mersereau was the second of his career and his eight solo stops were a career high … The three turnovers forced by the Sioux were a season high … Sophomore Jake Miller has rushed for 625 yards and 11 touchdowns in his last four games … It was Miller’s fourth straight 100-yard rushing game and fourth consecutive multiple-touchdown effort.
– Go Sioux –