By Ryan Powell
Special to College Sports Journal
Editor’s Note: This story is courtesy of North Dakota athletics
OGDEN, Utah – For the second week in a row, North Dakota saw a double-digit lead slip away in the fourth quarter as Weber State rallied for a 25-24 win Saturday at Stewart Stadium. Wildcat quarterback Jadrian Clark led the comeback with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes.
“We have to learn how to close out games and we need to do a better job of that,” UND head coach Bubba Schweigert said. “We got outscored again (in the fourth quarter) and didn’t make enough plays down the stretch. You’d like to give our kicker a chance there in a one-point game, but we couldn’t move the ball.”
After Luke Stanley put UND (4-3, 2-2 BSC) up 24-10 with a 22-yard touchdown reception on the first play of the fourth quarter, the Wildcats (4-3, 3-1 BSC) scored 15 unanswered points to pick up their second straight Big Sky win in dramatic fashion.
Clark’s third touchdown pass of the game came after UND’s first turnover set his team up at the visitor’s 10-yard line. Two plays later, Clark found Cody Eyolfson on a 5-yard screen pass that was set up after quarterback Ryan Bartels fumbled after being pressured by Emmett Tela.
UND had three more chances after falling behind, but a three-and-out, interception and turnover on downs snuffed out any chance at late heroics. Sophomore Jahmere Irvin-Sills forced a fumble as Weber State was trying to run out the clock, setting up UND at its own 43-yard line, but Bartels was intercepted three plays later.
Bartels finished 9-for-20 for 118 yards and two touchdown passes in his first start since the season finale in 2013 at UC Davis. Freshman John Santiago led UND’s rushing attack with a career-high 157 yards and scored on a 46-yard run on the team’s first possession to give the visitors an early 7-0 lead.
Weber State answered quickly though by putting together a 9-play, 54-yard drive on its first possession that resulted in a 48-yard field goal by Josh Kealmakia.
Those three points would be all the UND defense would surrender in the opening half as that unit only allowed 41 yards on the Wildcats’ next five possessions.
Santiago had 15 of his team’s 27 carries in the first half that saw the offense churn out 141 yards on the ground. Wide receiver Clive Georges, who was seeing his first action since injuring a thumb in the season-opener at Wyoming, turned three jet sweeps into 24 yards.
Bartels connected with Miguel Cerriteno on a 47-yard touchdown reception that put the visitors ahead 14-3 and Reid Taubenheim would extend the halftime lead to 17-3 after connecting on a 39-yard field goal. He had missed earlier in the second quarter from 35 yards out.
Weber State got within a score in the third quarter when Darryl Denby found paydirt from five yards out. He led the Wildcats’ aerial attack with seven receptions for 130 yards, while Clark finished with 273 yards and three touchdown passes.
The Wildcats’ offense, which only had 212 total yards after three quarters, got rolling in the final stanza as Clark led his team on three-scoring drives that totaled 144 yards.
UND will stay on the road and take on Montana next Saturday in Missoula in a game that will be nationally televised on ROOT Sports. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. CT.
GAME NOTES: Captains for today’s game were seniors Zach Adler, Brandon Anderson, Dayo Idowu and Will Ratelle … Senior safety William James had a career-high 13 tackles … Freshman John Santiago posted his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the season and fourth-straight in Big Sky play with a career-high 157 rushing yards on 25 attempts … Redshirt freshman Luke Stanley had a season-high four catches for 50 yards and his team-leading third touchdown reception of the season … Senior Miguel Cerriteno had a touchdown reception for the second-straight game … This one came on a career-long, 47-yard reception … Ratelle added 12 tackles and now has four double-digit tackling performances on the season … Sophomore Conner O’Brien finished with a career-high nine tackles … True freshman Elijah Grady made his first-career start at right tackle … The last time UND lost by a single point was a 28-27 setback at Northern Colorado in the 2012 season finale.