Cheney, Wash. – No. 7 Eastern Washington used a quick-strike offense and strong special teams play to defeat North Dakota 55-17 on Saturday in Big Sky play at Roos Field. The Eagles (4-1, 3-0 BSC) came into the contest known more for a prolific passing attack, but the home team churned out a season-high 290 of its 458 yards of total offense on the ground to remain unbeaten in league play.
Even though a majority of their yardage came via the rush, the Eagles (4-1, 3-0 BSC) did most of their scoring through the air, including four first-half passing touchdowns that came on drives which took under three minutes off the clock.
“This is very disappointing after the way we played tonight,” UND head coach Chris Mussman said. “Offensively, we would get something going, but then turn the ball over. Defensively, we couldn’t come up with any big stops and special teams, we were outclassed in that department tonight.”
North Dakota (3-3, 1-2 BSC) used the ground game on its opening possession to march down the field and take a brief 7-0 lead following a 2-yard touchdown run by senior Mitch Sutton. That came after the defense held the Eagles to a three-and-out on their first possession.
After an incomplete pass on the first play of the drive, the visitors went to the ground for the next six plays, covering 59 yards. The ground game could muster only 84 yards the rest of the night, however, as one of the nation’s top offenses was held to a season-low of 325 yards and 17 points for the second straight week.
Following UND’s opening score, EWU redshirt freshman Vernon Adams led his team to back-to-back touchdown drives, connecting on long pass plays to cap both of those possessions.
Adams would finish 12-for-15 for 151 yards and four tossing scores before being replaced midway through the third quarter with his team leading 41-17.
Sophomore Shea Walker blocked EWU’s first point-after-attempt, but the Eagles got their next one to move ahead 13-7.
Senior Braden Hanson saw his first action under center since the opener vs. SD Mines on UND’s third possession and led the offense to three points. The 37-yard field goal by Zeb Miller cut the deficit to 13-10, but a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Shaquille Hill quickly put the home team ahead by double digits.
UND was forced to punt again and Adams struck for his third scoring strike of the half from 12 yards out to push the Eagles’ lead to 27-10.
Hanson would cap a methodical, 16-play, 79-yard drive with the first rushing touchdown of his career to get the deficit back down to 10 points, but another big return by Hill set his team up for one last chance at a score with under 90 seconds to play in the half.
Adams and company would capitalize once again as the signal caller found Greg Herd for his second touchdown reception of the half with 13 ticks remaining and make it a 34-17 halftime lead for EWU.
The EWU defense would not surrender any points after the half, while forcing a pair of UND turnovers to help keep the lead at a comfortable margin. Adams and the offense helped the cause by putting up a trio of touchdowns.
EWU’s first score of the second half defined the night for UND as wide receiver Ashton Clark picked up a loose ball after Herd fumbled on a reverse and scored on the play from 12 yards out.
Hanson finished 16-of-22 through the air for 141 yards as the UND game plan called for both fifth-year seniors to alternate possessions as the game dictated. Hendrickson netted 31 yards on the ground, but completed only 4-of-12 passes for 41 yards. Redshirt freshman Jameer Jackson finished with a career-high nine catches for 74 yards.
UND will be at home in the Alerus Center for its next two games. The first one is a Homecoming tilt with Northern Arizona set for Saturday at 3:05 p.m.
Game Notes: Captains for this game were Erik Mersereau, Mitch Sutton, Ian McGurran and Ross Brenneman … Redshirt freshman Jameer Jackson caught a career-high nine passes for 74 yards … The nine receptions were the most by a UND receiver this season … Sophomore Jer Garman had a game-high 12 carries for a season-high 56 yards on the ground … Sutton’s 2-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter was his eighth of the season and 16th of his career … Sophomore Ben Peters led the defense with a career-high eight tackles … The 55 points yielded by the UND defense were the most this season … The unit did hold EWU to a season-low 168 passing yards ... Sophomore Shea Walker's blocked extra point was the fifth blocked kick by the UND special eams this season ... For Walker, the block was his second of the season and fourth of his career.