GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Montana State quarterback Chris Murray accounted for four touchdowns and the Bobcats piled up twice as many total yards as North Dakota to knock off the 17th-ranked Fighting Hawks 49-21 in the Big Sky opener for both teams Saturday at the Alerus Center.
After going three-and-out on their opening possession, the Bobcats (1-2, 1-0 BSC) scored touchdowns on seven of their next eight times with the ball to snap UND’s 11-game league winning streak that dated back to the 2015 season. MSU’s victory over the Fighting Hawks (1-3, 0-1 BSC) also came in front of the first sellout crowd at the Alerus Center since the 2009 season opener.
MSU finished with a 515 to 255 edge in total offense with 341 of those coming on the ground. The visitors also went 12-for-16 on third-down conversions, including a stretch where they converted 10 in a row to help own a 19:22 time of possession advantage (39:41 to 20:19).
The Bobcats blocked a 45-yard field goal attempt by Reid Taubenheim in the opening quarter and would turn that momentum into the first of four opening-half touchdowns.
The first two came on the ground, compliments of Logan Jones (11 yards) and Troy Andersen (2 yards). Murray tossed the final two scores of the half, finding Wilston Brott on a 12-yard strike and Jabarri Johnson on a 13-yarder with 57 ticks to play.
UND’s offense went three-and-out following the first three MSU touchdowns and the Fighting Hawks’ defense came up with the only touchdown of the half when Jake Disterhaupt picked off Murray and raced 37 yards to make it 21-7.
That would be the only drive for MSU that did not result in a touchdown until late in the fourth quarter when the Bobcat reserves were held to back-to-back punts.
Murray responded to his lone mistake of the day and marched his team on 9-play, 72-yard drive that he capped with a perfectly thrown fade route to Johnson to make it a 28-7 lead.
UND managed to erase three points from its deficit on the final drive of the half when Taubenheim made a 37-yard field to pull within 28-10 at halftime.
More than half of UND’s 102 yards of total offense came on that final scoring drive, while the Bobcats racked up 289 first-half yards, including 182 on the ground.
The Fighting Hawks got a 44-yard field goal from Taubenheim on their opening drive of the third quarter, but Murray capped a nine-play, 81-yard drive with a 44-yard pass to Kevin Kassis.
Murray finished the game 15-for-19 for 174 passing yards and three scores, while adding a game-high 132 yards rushing and 1-yard scoring plunge late in the fourth quarter.
A Brady Oliveira 34-yard run and two-point conversion pass to Noah Wanzek cut UND’s deficit to 35-21 at the 3:22 mark of the third quarter, but the Bobcats would once again have an answer.
Andersen would bury any hopes of a UND comeback with a 27-yard touchdown run that put an end to a 14-play, 83-yard drive that chewed up nearly half a quarter (7:27). Andersen joined Murray over the century-mark in rushing with 131 yards.
The Bobcats held UND’s ground game in check, limiting the home team to just 102 rushing yards. Oliveira had 39 of those, while quarterback Keaton Studsrud added 34. The senior captain also went 15-for-27 through the air for 147 yards, but the UND offense managed just 12 first down and converted only 5-of-14 third-down chances.
Disterhaupt finished with a game-high 12 tackles to go with his pick six, while junior Tamas Stewart added a career-high 10 tackles after replacing All-American Cole Reyes, who left the game with an injury in the second quarter.
UND will return to league action next Saturday at UC Davis when they take on the Aggies at 8 p.m. CT.
GAME NOTES: Permanent captains for the season are Jake Disterhaupt, John Santiago, Keaton Studsrud and Cole Reyes ... The announced attendance of 12,342 was the first sellout at the Alerus Center since the 2009 season opener vs. South Dakota (12,431) ... The loss snapped an 11-game Big Sky winning streak for UND that dated back to the 2015 season (vs. Idaho State; Oct. 10) ... UND had also won its last seven regular-season games at home dating back to that loss to the Bengals ... Disterhaupt recorded a game-high 12 tackles now has double-figure tackles in three of four games this season ... His second-quarter pick six was the second interception of his career and first since his freshman season in 2014 ... Junior Tamas Stewart added a career-high 10 tackles ... Junior Brady Oliveira has accounted for at least one touchdown in his last nine Big Sky games ... The 341 rushing yards allowed to the Bobcats were the most in the Bubba Schweigert era (since 2014) and the most since Montana State racked up 436 rushing yards in a 2012 victory over UND ... Redshirt freshman Noah Mortel (left tackle) made his first career start for the injured A.J. Stockwell.
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