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Senior Mitch Sutton rushed for a season-high 162 yards and scored a career-high three touchdowns in UND's Big Sky debut on Saturday.
Sutton powers UND in 35-13 win at Sac State
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Updated: Sunday 09/23/2012 05:29:03 (ET)
by UNDsports.com
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SACRAMENTO - Senior running back Mitch Sutton saved the first three-touchdown game of his career for a historic day on the North Dakota football timeline as his team defeated Sacramento State 35-13 in its Big Sky debut. Redshirt freshman Jameer Jackson added two receiving scores in the victory that saw the UND defense force a season-high three turnovers.

"This is a big win. Our first Big Sky win and our first opportunity on the road," UND head coach Chris Mussman said. "This is huge for us. I'm proud of our guys with the way it ended. We kind of imposed our will on them late."

Sutton finished with season highs of 23 carries and 163 yards as he found the end zone on a pair of five-yard runs and a one-yarder. UND improved to 3-1 on the season and 1-0 in Big Sky action, while Sac State fell to 2-2 and 0-1 in league play. It was the fourth straight game UND scored at least five touchdowns.

The first of those came easy as senior Marcus Hendrickson marched his squad right down the field on its first possession of the game to put the visitors out front 7-0. The senior signal caller hit on all four of his passes on the drive, including the capper - a 32-yard catch and run by Jackson. He finished the game 14-for-23 for 147 yards and those two touchdown passes to Jackson.

Sac State's day did not start as well as the home team's first drive ended when junior college transfer Clordion Kennedy stepped in front of a Garret Safron pass for his first career interception. The Hornets' defense did its part, however, holding UND to what would be the visitor's first of five straight three-and-outs.

The Hornets would square the score at 7-7 on their second possession when Safron found DeAndre Carter from 11 yards out. Carter has caught at least one touchdown in each game for Sac State this season.

Senior Brett Cameron, who had punted only five times in the first three games combined, got five punts off before halftime, averaging 47.4 yards on those boots. He pinned the Hornets inside their 20-yard line on three of those efforts.

After the five stalled drives, the offense responded after Sac State turned the ball over on downs at the UND 36-yard line.

Sutton converted the first third down of the game for UND, scampering 20 yards on a 3rd-and-2 that got the ball down the Sac State 5-yard line. He would punch it on the next play, outracing a Hornet defender to the corner of the end zone.

It appeared that the Hornets would once again answer that score, but after Safron drove his team down to UND's five-yard line, a mishandled snap was pounced on by Ross Brenneman to keep Sac State from scoring with just over a minute to play in the half.

Junior Jake Miller reeled off a 51-yard run on first down to give UND life in the final minute, but Hendrickson would throw his second interception of the season on a second-down play to end any hopes of adding to the seven-point advantage.

The Hornets took over with 49 ticks left in the half as their sophomore quarterback moved his squad into UND territory, but could only get the ball down to the 35-yard line.  That set up a 52-yard attempt by Edgar Castaneda, but the UND special teams once again came up with a big block to keep the advantage at seven points going into halftime.

Sac State outgained UND 321-232 in the first half, including 236 on the ground, but the UND defense kept coming up with big plays to keep points off the scoreboard.

The second half started much of the same way as the first with Safron and company moving into UND territory, but once again the UND defense forced a costly turnover. This time it was another red-zone miscue by Safron as safety Erik Mersereau picked him off and returned his first interception of the season 39 yards to midfield.

UND passed up a long field goal attempt to go for it on fourth down from the Sac State 36-yard line, but the visitors would come up empty. Sac State returned the favor, however, this time giving the ball right back after Safron was stuffed on a fourth-and-one from his team's own 40-yard line.

This time UND would take advantage of the generous field position as Sutton once again capped a scoring drive with a five-yard jaunt to the same corner of the end zone he scored in earlier.

Sutton's second rushing score put his team ahead 28-7 and the bruising back would chew up more than nine minutes of the fourth-quarter clock with another imposing drive by the UND offense. He capped a 16-play, 85-yard drive with his career-high third rushing score of the game from one-yard out.

Sutton accounted for 12 carries and 68 yards on that drive alone as he surpassed the 100-yard mark for the first time since the 2011 season opener vs. Drake.

"That was an impressive drive by our guys to kind of finish them off," Mussman added.

With a comfortable 35-7 lead in hand, the Hornets finally scored in the second half after back-up quarterback Mason Magleby drove his team down 75 yards on the ensuing possession for a touchdown. Junior Greg Hardin would recover the onsides kick attempt and UND would finish off a history-making win with one last carry by Sutton.

UND will return to the Alerus Center on Saturday for its first Big Sky home game against Cal Poly. The two teams joined the league this past summer after butting heads in the Great West for the past three seasons. Kickoff is slated for 6:05 p.m. CT.

Game Notes: Ross Brenneman, Brett Cameron, Ian McGurran and Seth Wisthoff served as game captains ... UND is now 2-1 when making its debut in a new league ... The win on the road was the fourth in the last five games for UND dating back to last season ... UND has scored at least five touchdowns in each game this season ... Brenneman registered his first sack of the season in the victory, improving his career total to 15.5, which is tied for fifth on the all-time list ... Senior Mitch Sutton rushed for seasons highs of 23 carries and 162 yards and posted his second multiple-touchdown performance of the season ... Sutton had two in the opener vs. SD Mines and had his first career three touchdown effort in this contest ... Sutton's 100-yard effort was his first since the 2011 season opener vs. Drake ... Redshirt freshman Jameer Jackson had the first multiple-touchdown performance of his career and now has four receiving touchdowns on the season ... Junior linebacker Cordero Finley led UND with a career-high nine tackles ... Junior safety Clordion Kennedy had his first career interception ... Senior safety Erik Mersereau's interception in the third quarter was the third of his career ... Senior Ross Brenneman recovered a fumble and moved his career sack total to 15.5 with his first of the season - that total is tied for fourth most in regular-season play in UND history.

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