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Junior John Santiago leads the FCS with 1,295 all-purpose yards in 2017.
Game Notes: UND set for road-clash with Vikings
Release: 10/24/2017
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GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The North Dakota football team starts a stretch of back-to-back road games for the only time this season on Saturday at Portland State. Kickoff against the Vikings is set for 6 p.m. CT and set to be televised on Eleven Sports Network.

• Both teams will be searching for a tally in a win column that has eluded Portland State since a 51-29 win at UC Davis nearly a year ago (Nov. 5, 2016) and has been much harder to find in 2017 for the reigning Big Sky Co-Champions.
• The Fighting Hawks have lost two straight overall and are seeking their first road win of the season (0-4 so far) after going 4-2 in those tilts during 2016. The Vikings have lost nine-straight overall, including seven to open the 2017 season and have not won at home since beating Idaho State 45-20 at Providence Park on Oct. 1 (six-consecutive losses).
• UND owns a 4-2 edge in the all-time series with the Vikings that dates back to each program’s respective Division II days.
• The teams first met back in 1980 when former NFL quarterback and DII All-American Neil Lomax led PSU to a 28-14 victory.
• That’s been the only contest decided by double digits in the series. The last five matchups have all been decided by eight points or less and their three Big Sky meetings have been decided by a combined total of 14 points.
• UND’s last game in Portland came during the 2015 season and was played at Hillsboro Stadium where four Reid Taubenheim field goals led the visitors to a 19-17 victory over the 16th-ranked Vikings. That was the program’s first DI victory over a ranked opponent on the road.
• This year’s contest returns back to Providence Park where the Vikings rallied for a 14-10 victory back in 2013 after taking advantage of a pair of special teams miscues in the fourth quarter by UND.

TV: Eleven Sports (DirecTV 623)
UND Radio: 96.1 FM (Grand Forks)
Live Video Stream: Pluto.TV (Ch. 240)
Live Audio Stream: and UND Sports Mobile
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UND plays its final Big Sky road game of the season at Southern Utah on Nov. 4. Kickoff against the Thunderbirds is set for 7 p.m. CT from Cedar City.

UND’s fourth-quarter rally came up short in a 34-27 loss to Sacramento State, who picked up its first road win of the season last Saturday at the Alerus Center. The Hornets outscored UND 24-7 in a decisive third quarter after the team went to halftime tied at 10-10. Back-up quarterback Andrew Zimmerman pulled his team within a touchdown with a pair of touchdown passes in relief, but two potential game-tying touchdown drives stalled late in the final stanza.

Movie star and Minot, N.D. native Josh Duhamel was on hand to conduct the coin toss in Saturday’s “Green Out” game vs. Sacramento State. Duhamel also road with the team to the Alerus Center and participated in the team’s “Hawk Walk”. The star of the Transformer series played quarterback at Minot State.

Junior running back John Santiago needs just 34 rushing yards to reach the 3,000-yard plateau for his career and become just the fourth player in UND history to reach that feat. He piled up 75 rushing yards and 178 all-purpose yards last Saturday, which helped him eclipse another milestone as he became just the fourth player in program history to accumulate 5,000 all-purpose yards. He now has 5,054 career all-purpose yards and leads the FCS this season with 1,295 all-purpose yards (161.9 ypg). Santiago’s career figures in both rushing and all-purpose yardage are tops among all FCS juniors.

After having just one 100-yard receiving game through the first seven games, a pair of Fighting Hawks surpassed the century mark in the loss to Sacramento State. Senior De’mun Mercer had season-highs in catches (5) and receiving yards (115) and scored on a 39-yard reception, while sophomore Noah Wanzek added a career-high eight receptions for 100 yards and an 18-yard touchdown grab in the fourth quarter.

For Mercer, it was the third 100-yard game of his UND career, while Wanzek had the only previous 100-yard game of the season for the Fighting Hawks after catching seven passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the shutout of Missouri State. The last time UND had a pair of 100-yard receivers in the same game was 2013 at Northern Arizona (Nov. 2) when Kenny Golladay (16-for-183) and Greg Hardin (8-for-118) reached that plateau.

Both UND and its opponents have attempted 112 third-down conversions on the season. Unfortunately, its the opposition that is having more success in staying on the field. UND has converted only 34 attempts (30.4 percent), while the opposition has converted 52 attempts (46.4 percent).

UND lost the turnover battle 3-0 to Sacramento State and has not forced one since having two picks and a fumble recovery in the opening quarter at Montana (Oct. 14). It was only the second time this season that UND failed to force a turnover (at South Dakota; Sept. 16). The game against the Coyotes was also the only game UND did not turn the ball over this season. Overall, UND’s turnover margin is just -2 after turning the ball over 14 times.

Back in fall camp, if you had polled the coaching staff and media surrounding the team who do you think would be the team’s leading tackler through eight games, not many would have picked the player currently on top of that list: redshirt freshman Jake Rastas. The walk-on from New Berlin, Wis., was expected to contribute on special teams and bide his time on the sidelines waiting for an opportunity in UND’s 3-4 defense. After sitting out the opener at Utah (Aug. 30), Rastas was handed a more definitive role much sooner than expected.

After starter Donnell Rodgers went down with an injury in the second game of the season, Rastas filled in and has not looked back. Not only does he lead the team with 59 tackles, but that total is also tops among all freshmen in the FCS. He made 11 tackles in his first career start at South Dakota (Sept. 16) and added a season-high at UC Davis (Sept. 30). He also leads UND with a trio of double-digit tackle performances.

Sophomore Andrew Zimmerman spent the first half of the season working as UND’s third-string quarterback, while getting a fair share of reps in practice. He saw spot duty late in the 49-21 loss to Montana State (Sept. 23), but has seen extensive second-half action in relief over the past two games at Montana (Oct. 14) and vs. Sacramento State (Oct. 21). Against the Grizzlies, Zimmerman went 7-for-14 for 132 yards, including a 62-yard touchdown pass to Stetson Carr. That is the longest pass play of the season for UND and was Zimmerman’s first scoring pass of his Division I career. In last Saturday’s loss to the Hornest, the JUCO-transfer went 11-for-20 for 179 and two touchdowns as he nearly led the Fighting Hawks to a comeback win. For the season, Zimmeran is 18-for-36 for 311 yards and three touchdowns.

Senior Brandon Dranka registered his team-leading third sack of the season and now has one in each of the last three games. That’s the best stretch of his career, which has seen the Huntley, Ill., native appear in all 43 games over the past four seasons. Dranka has started 30 of those and now has 10.5 career sacks.

With 75 rushing yards, junior John Santiago moved up two spots to fourth place on UND’s all-time rushing list with 2,966 yards … Santiago also surpassed the 5,000-yard plateau in all-purpose yardage with 178 in the contest and now ranks fourth in that category as well with 5,054 ... Disterhaupt returned to the field after missing the last two games, while tight end Luke Fiedler also returned following a three-game absence.

The senior trio of Brandon Dranka (defensive end), Reid Taubenheim (placekicker) and Jacob Holmen (long snapper) have appeared in all 43 games over the past three-plus seasons. Dranka has 30 career starts under his belt, while Taubenheim has attempted every place kick for UND during that span (115-for-118 on PATs and 58-for-80 on FGs). Meanwhile, Holmen split the snapping duties in his collegiate debut at San Jose State in 2014, but has been the primary snapper on both punts and placekicks in the subsequent 42 games.

Senior placekicker Reid Taubenheim is now 13-for-17 on the season in field goals attempts and has upped his career makes total to 58, which ranks third on UND’s all-time charts. His 58 makes are also the most among active FCS kicker and tied for seventh among all active kickers at any NCAA level. Auburn’s Daniel Carlson leads that list with 84 career makes. Abilene Christian’s Nik Grau is the next closest at the FCS level with 45 career makes.

With all the injuries mounting, there is experience to be gained by younger players and that was the case at Montana (Oct. 14). The top five tacklers on the defensive stat sheet were all freshmen with Jake Rastas leading the way with nine. True freshman Ty Shannon saw his most extensive action of the season against the Grizzlies and finished with a season-high seven tackles, while the trio of Hayden Blubaugh, Jordan Canaday and Jaxson Turner each finished with six stops. Fellow freshman Cam Hunt added four tackles and added his second interception of the season in the first quarter at Montana. Hunt picked off a pass in his first collegiate game the week prior in UND’s Homecoming win over Northern Colorado. He missed the first five games recovering from an injury suffered during the offseason.

Junior Tank Harris had just one tackle for loss in UND’s first seven games, but he tripled that output vs. Sacramento State (Oct. 21). Harris finished with a season-high five tackles (all solo) and was a disruptive force in the Hornets’ backfield.

Senior Chuck Flowers came down with interceptions on back-to-back defensive plays for the Fighting Hawks. The abnormal part about that feat was that they came a week a part. Flowers ended the victory over Northern Colorado by intercepting a pass on the Bears’ final offensive snap, then opened the Montana game by picking off Gresch Jensen’s pass on the opening play by the Griz. Flowers is one of six defenders to start all eight games this season and he is coming off a career-high, 11-tackle performance against Sacramento State (Oct. 21). He currently ranks second on the team with 55 total tackles.

-- UND --

2017 Football

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