UND can't survive rough start in 38-31 loss to Weber State in FCS first round

The Fighting Hawks fell behind 24-0 before mounting a comeback.

NCAA FOOTBALL 2022: North Dakota vs Weber State NOV 26
UND wide receiver Bo Belquist looks for extra yardage during the NCAA FCS playoff football game between the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks and the Weber State Wildcats at Stewart Stadium in Ogden, UT on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022.
Russell Hons / UND Athletics
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OGDEN, Utah — With a light snow and a backdrop of the Wasatch Mountains, the UND football team had a far different scene Saturday than the week before in the regular-season finale at North Dakota State.

The setting may have been wildly different, but the same issues from the struggles in Fargo reared their ugly head to open the FCS playoffs.

UND gave up 330 rushing yards and fell behind 24-0 before making Weber State sweat out a 38-31 victory over the Fighting Hawks in front of 4,495 at Stewart Stadium.

Weber State running backs Josh Davis (129 rushing yards) and Damon Bankston (122 rushing yards) each finished above the 100-yard milestone.

"It was running the football and stopping the run," UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. "We weren't able to execute at a high enough level. They're a good team. We knew we'd be challenged, but we didn't get off to a good start."


UND dropped to 1-4 all-time in the FCS playoffs.

Despite the 24-point early hole, UND had one final chance to pull off a wild comeback. The Hawks took over possession with 1:49 left at their own 16 in a one-score game.

After a 13-yard pass from Tommy Schuster to Garett Maag, Schuster fumbled on a rollout as Weber State defensive lineman Jack Kelly raked out the ball. That fumble set UND in to a second-and-21 situation.

UND then finished with three straight incompletions.

"I was really proud of our guys," Schweigert said. "At halftime, we were talking to our guys about believing we could win the game and that's why it's been fun to coach this group. They fight so hard."

UND ends the season 7-5, while Weber State (10-2) advances to the second round and will play at No. 4 seed Montana State in Bozeman.

After falling behind 24-0, UND clawed back in the game late in the first half with some strange plays.

Isaiah Smith made it 24-7 when he picked up a Tommy Schuster fumble and ran 63 yards into the end zone. Schuster appeared to throw an incomplete pass on the play but officials ruled a fumble. The play was reviewed and upheld.


Then after Weber State went up 31-7 with 27 seconds left in the second quarter, UND was able to strike for a touchdown before the halftime horn.

Tyler Hoosman, who finished with 138 rushing yards, went 72 yards on the first play of the ensuing drive to set up first-and-goal from the 5.

With 10 seconds to halftime, Schuster hit tight end Jaden Norby for a touchdown to make it 31-14 at the break.

"We put ourselves in a hole and when the offense makes plays like that it gives us some juice to make plays," UND linebacker Devon Krzanowski said. "That really changed how we were approaching the game. We knew that we were still in this and not give up on the game."

UND started the second half with a 60-yard Red Wilson kick return before the drive stalled in the red zone and UND settled for a short Brady Stevens field goal to make it 31-17.

After falling behind 38-17 with 6:25 left in the third quarter, UND mounted a comeback.

Adam Zavalney caught a 7-yard touchdown pass with 9:48 left in the fourth quarter to trim the lead to 38-24. A 4-yard Jack Wright touchdown catch with 3:04 remaining cut the lead to 38-31.

"Coach Schweigert does a phenomenal job with his teams," Weber State coach Jay Hill said. "We knew they weren't going to give up. We got off to a great start. I don't love giving up the two touchdown drives but proud of the defense for getting out of the last one."


Schuster finished 23-for-43 passing for 184 yards and three touchdowns.

Weber quarterback Bronson Barron ended with 110 passing yards as Weber State leaned on the run game, which finished with 59 carries for 330 yards.

Davis, who ended with two touchdowns, played through an ankle injury that has hampered the former All-American much of the season.

"It was great to be back playing semi-full speed," Davis said. "I felt good. It was fun. I have a great O-line and offensive coordinator."

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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