Grand Valley’s first-quarter explosion proved to be too big a hole for the Sioux to climb out of, although UND made a spirited push by scoring 20 of the game’s final 23 points.
When GVSU senior quarterback and Harlon Hill Trophy finalist Cullen Finnerty hit Terry Mitchell in the end zone from 20 yards on the Lakers’ third offensive play, it kick-started a scoring run that had the Sioux trailing 27-0 late in the first qurter.
On the Lakers’ second possession, Finnerty found receiver Eric Fowler in the back corner of the end zone and GVSU led 14-0 midway through the opening quarter.
The Lakers struck again, this time on UND’s next possession, when linebacker Anthony Adams stripped Sioux quarterback Reed Manke of the ball, and picked up and scampered untouched for a 28-yard touchdown.
Then less than four minutes later Finnerty again connected with Fowler, who made a spectacular, one-handed diving catch in the end zone for a four-yard score. The extra point missed, but the Lakers owned a commanding 27-0 lead with 1:40 remaining in the quarter.
UND’s offense did begin to click in the second quarter, and the Sioux finally got on the board five minutes in when Manke hit freshman receiver Brady Trenbeath over the middle, and Trenbeath broke several tackles on his way to a 46-yard touchdown.
The Sioux appeared to be on the verge of making it a two-score game late in the first half, driving deep into Laker territory. But freshman running back Ryan Chappell coughed up the ball at the GVSU five-yard line, allowing the Lakers to hold on to their 27-7 lead going into the locker room.
UND did eventually make it a 27-14 game when Brandon Brady hit paydirt on a one-yard scoring plunge with seven seconds left in the third quarter.
Grand Valley kicker Todd Carter connected on a 28-yard field goal four minutes into the fourth quarter, making it 30-14 with 11:18 remaining.
The Sioux would not go quietly, however. With just over five minutes remaining, Manke hit Weston Dressler on a swing pass, and Dressler weaved his way into the end zone from 17-yards out for his school-record 25th-career touchdown reception. UND lined up to go for the two-point conversion, but Manke slipped dropping back to pass and the Sioux deficit stood at 10.
The UND defense forced a pair of turnovers in the dying minutes, but the Sioux were able to turn either of them into points.
Grand Valley State now advances to the national semifinal round against either Delta State or North Alabama in search of a second straight NCAA title. UND’s season ends at 11-2.
Notes: Dressler had 10 catches for 122 yards and surpassed Dan Grossman as the team’s all-time leader in career receptions (167). Dressler also finished the season with a school-record 1,215 receiving yards to break Ron Gustafson’s 33-yard old record, and he became just the second player in school history to catch 90 passes in a single season, joining Willis Stattelman, who had 97 in 2003 … Dressler also broke his own school record for single-season all-purpose yards, finishing the year with 2,027 yards. He previously set the record last year with 1,915 ... UND’s senior class of 2006 graduates as the winningest senior group in school history with a 44-11 record ...
Contact: Jayson Hajdu