GRAND FORKS, N.D. — I don't know if the North Dakota State-North Dakota rivalry will ever be what it once was, and what the Fighting Hawks want it to be again. I know this: If Bubba Schweigert made the decision he did Saturday in, say, 1992 it would've been worthy of Eddie Schultz screaming to a statewide television audience, "I can't believe Bubba just did what he did!" There would've been a documentary segment on it. A book chapter written about it.

They'd still be talking about it in Pisek, Parshall and Pembina. It was that gutsy. Or something.

UND's head coach made a decision that tilted the outcome of the game to the Bison's favor, gifting away a second-half lead in what eventually was a 16-10 NDSU victory in a game the Fighting Hawks, their fans, their alumni and the city of Grand Forks desperately wanted.

As it is, Schweigert was left to tell the assembled media after the game that he'd probably lose sleep because of his decision.

The rest of the world interested in the Bison-Hawks football games are left to scratch our heads in wonderment and confusion.

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North Dakota State's Jayden Price and Jasir Cox celebrate a fourth down stop against North Dakota at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
North Dakota State's Jayden Price and Jasir Cox celebrate a fourth down stop against North Dakota at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021. David Samson / The Forum

UND led 7-6 midway through the third quarter, its defense playing its guts out and stifling the Bison's vaunted offense with blitzes and physical play that confused and frustrated NDSU quarterback Quincy Patterson and Co. There seemed little chance NDSU could put together a drive long enough to score a touchdown.

But on fourth down-and-1 from UND's own 20-yard line, Schweigert decided that instead of punting the ball back to the Bison and trusting his defense to smother NDSU one more time, he'd go for it.

A first down, that is. For the glory. For the win.

To repeat: From his own 20, with a lead, at home, midway through the third quarter, with NDSU's offense doing nothing.

"I just thought we could get it," Schweigert said.

North Dakota State quarterback Quincy Patterson evades North Dakota's Jayson Coley at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks on Saturday, Oct.2, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
North Dakota State quarterback Quincy Patterson evades North Dakota's Jayson Coley at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks on Saturday, Oct.2, 2021. David Samson / The Forum

So UND's running quarterback, the very large Quincy Vaughn, trotted onto the field. And even though the Hawks at first lined up in punt formation, the Bison immediately recognized the play and didn't have a return man deep. They lined up in their usual defense.

Vaughn ran to the line of scrimmage, looked over the defense, took the snap and dove forward. UND's blockers generated no momentum. Vaughn was stopped, even though Schweigert said after the game one of the officials believed UND got enough for the first down.

Suddenly and inexplicably, the Fighting Hawks were in a pickle.

"I made a decision that put our team in a tough spot. I thought our defense responded well," Schweigert said. "I wanted to do that. It's tough when you make those calls if they don't work, then you've got to live with it."

North Dakota State kicker Jake Reinholz connects on his third field goal against North Dakota at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
North Dakota State kicker Jake Reinholz connects on his third field goal against North Dakota at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021. David Samson / The Forum

UND's defense, outstanding most of the game until the Bison's game-clinching touchdown drive in the final minutes, indeed rose to the occasion. It held NDSU to 8 yards in three plays, forcing a 30-yard Jake Reinholz field goal for a 9-7 Bison lead.

There was still 4:34 left in the third quarter.

The decision — The Decision? — even caught the Bison by surprise.

"A little bit, yeah. No. 14 (Vaughn), we knew he was the sneak guy. It was certainly a bit surprising," Bison linebacker Jackson Hankey said. "Like I said, that's who they are. Third, fourth down, they are going to go for it. You have to expect the unexpected with these guys."

North Dakota State players chat with North Dakota's Otis Weah after the game at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks on Saturday, Oct.2, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
North Dakota State players chat with North Dakota's Otis Weah after the game at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks on Saturday, Oct.2, 2021. David Samson / The Forum

Unexpected would be an understatement. UND is a team that relies heavily on trick plays when it gets in big games, and it ran a few against the Bison. The Hawks' first TD was some quick-snap trickery that caught the Bison off guard.

But Schweigert's call, so deep in UND's own territory with the lead at that point of the game, was something else.

Schweigert was asked his thinking behind it.

"Get the first down and keep our offense on the field because we hadn't moved the ball yet. Quincy (Vaughn) hadn't been stopped yet this year. The next one we run, we get five yards," he said. "We just didn't get it. I'll second-guess it, no doubt. I'll second-guess it because it didn't work."

UND went for another fourth down in the fourth quarter — it needed 2 yards at NDSU's 43 that time — still trailing 9-7 with six minutes left. A reverse to receiver Bo Belquist gained 1 yard and the Bison went 58 punishing yards for the game-clinching touchdown.

That gamble made sense. The earlier one, less so.

"You gotta live with it. We have to move forward. It's tough," Schweigert said. "I don't know that I'll sleep tonight because we didn't get it."

The question will forever be whether the head coach got caught up in the moment. When a program treats a single game like the Super Bowl, Stanley Cup finals and Game 7 of the World Series all rolled into one, maybe these things happen.

Wonder what they're thinking in Pisek, Parshall and Pembina?