GRAND FORKS — North Dakota State solved the Alerus Center, surviving a slugfest with rival North Dakota on Saturday afternoon.
Bison quarterback Quincy Patterson scored a late 3-yard touchdown run to help his team seal a 16-10 victory against the Fighting Hawks in Missouri Valley Football Conference play before a raucous sellout crowd. No. 5-ranked NDSU leaned on its defense for most of the afternoon until Patterson's late score gave the Bison the cushion they needed to turn away No. 10-ranked UND.
"It was a very hostile environment for us, but we love it, we embrace it every moment," said Bison safety Dawson Weber, who had a key interception. "We talked about it for the past two weeks. We knew it was going to be crowded and went out there and had a blast."
Patterson's run was NDSU's lone TD as the Bison won for the first time in the Alerus Center in three tries. NDSU hadn't played in Grand Forks since 2003. The Bison hadn't won in Grand Forks since 1997.
"We knew it was going to be a physical game, I think our guys really brought it today," UND head coach Bubba Schweigert said. "Our guys played really physical. We threw some good punches today."
NDSU (4-0, 1-0 MVFC) remained undefeated in the conference opener for both teams. UND (2-2, 0-1) had its 12-game home winning streak snapped. The Bison have won 11 consecutive conference openers and 35 games in a row after open weeks.
"At that point, it was all or nothing," Patterson said of the eight-play, 58-yard touchdown drive. "I feel like that last drive everyone just kind of honed in and realized like, OK, we either score right now … or we’re going to lose. I feel like everybody took pride in that and we got it done."
Patterson scored his 3-yard TD run to give the Bison a 16-7 lead with 1 minute, 13 seconds to play in the fourth quarter. That drive started at the UND 42-yard line after the Bison defense stopped UND on a fourth-and-2 play from the NDSU 43. Fighting Hawks wide receiver Bo Belquist was limited to a 1-yard gain with 5:47 remaining and the Bison took over on downs.
After Patterson's score, UND kicker Adam Stage kicked a 46-yard field goal to make the score 16-10 with 16 seconds remaining for the final margin.
The Bison took a second-half lead after Jake Reinholz kicked a 30-yard field goal with 4:34 to play in the third quarter. That score was set up after UND was unable to convert a fourth-and-1 play from its own 20-yard. The Bison defense stuffed Fighting Hawks backup quarterback Quincy Vaughn on a sneak play.
NDSU was unable to get a first down and settled for a Reinholz kick.
"It was frustrating that we weren’t able to finish that series … being able to finish that one in the end zone," Bison head coach Matt Entz said.
UND had a chance to answer that score, driving the ball to the Bison 25-yard line late in the third quarter before Weber intercepted Fighting Hawks quarterback Tommy Schuster on third-and-5 to halt that potential scoring threat. Weber's interception and 11-yard return gave the Bison the ball at their own 20 with 1:10 to play in the third quarter.
"It was exhilarating. I trusted my eyes, trusted my players around me," Weber said. "The ball was in the air, at that point just catch the ball."
The Fighting Hawks used deception to take their first lead late in the first quarter. Schuster threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Belquist on a quick snap. Some Fighting Hawks were looking to the sideline as the ball was snapped. The score gave UND a 7-3 lead with 1:34 to play in the first quarter, capping an eight-play, 73-yard drive.
“They just caught us and it was well done,” said Bison linebacker Jackson Hankey, who is from Park River, N.D.
The Fighting Hawks never found the end zone after that, only driving inside the Bison 30 twice the remainder of the game. One drive ended with the Weber interception, the other ended with Stage's late field goal.
"We’re trying to play really disciplined, make sure everybody is doing their job, accomplishing their role within the defense," Hankey said. "Our defensive line does a really tremendous job. I’ve been so fortunate to play behind them for my career. They knock people off the line. They make it easy for us guys on the second level."
UND limited the Bison to two field goals in the first half. Reinholz booted a 45-yard field goal with 4:55 to play in the first quarter to give NDSU a 3-0 lead. Reinholz added a 34-yard field goal that cut the UND lead to 7-6 with 13:48 to play in the first half. The score stayed that way until halftime.
NDSU had the time of possession edge in the first half, holding the ball for more than 17 of the 30 minutes. The teams played to a virtual draw in yards from scrimmage. The Bison had 153 yards on 31 plays, while UND gained 159 yards on 29 plays. The Bison had the ball for more than 33 of the game's 60 minutes.
The 6-foot-3, 246-pound Patterson rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown on 19 attempts to lead NDSU.
Fighting Hawks running back Otis Weah, a Moorhead High School graduate, finished with 85 yards on 19 attempts. His longest run from scrimmage was 12 yards. The Bison rushed for 223 yards, while limiting UND to 113 on the ground.
"It was a lot of fun," said Hankey, who had seven tackles, including one for a loss. "It’s about as fun a football game as I can remember in a long time."