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UND hangs on to beat No. 24 Northern Iowa 29-27

Tommy Schuster throws for 275 yards and two touchdowns to lead Fighting Hawks to a 36th-straight home-opening win.

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UND quarterback Tommy Schuster runs a touchdown into the endzone against Northern Iowa in the fourth-quarter Saturday at the Alerus Center.
Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS — After rushing for a 6-yard touchdown, running for a key 10-yard scramble on third down in the fourth quarter and juking a defender in the hole on a 2-point conversion run, UND quarterback Tommy Schuster was jokingly asked in the postgame press conference if he was now categorized as a running quarterback.

Schuster set the record straight.

"Dual threat," Schuster said.

Schuster was 20-for-23 passing for 275 yards and two touchdowns as UND held off No. 24 Northern Iowa 29-27 on Saturday at the Alerus Center in the Potato Bowl.

UND won an FCS-best 36th straight home opener. Since Halloween 2018, UND is 16-1 at home with the lone loss to FCS superpower North Dakota State by six points.

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"I saw some opportunities today, and we talked about it all offseason and especially this week with what we saw on film," Schuster said of the plays he made with his feet.

The biggest play came on third-and-10 from the UNI 40 with 80 seconds left and the Panthers down to their final timeout.

Rather than playing it safe with a run, UND put the game in Schuster's hands. Schuster scrambled away from pressure and threaded a 24-yard completion to tight end Adam Zavalney, allowing UND to kneel out the remaining clock.

"I talked with (UND offensive coordinator Danny Freund) on the headset, and we said let's try to end the game right here," UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. "You get a first down, and it's game over. If we don't get it there, we punt the ball and try to pin them, and we would have seen what would've happened. We challenged them to go out and make a play to end the game, and we did it."

Schuster liked the playcall.

"I think that's the mentality we want to have," Schuster said. "We had the chance to end the game right there. They covered it well. We wanted to go over the top. They lost contain, so I took advantage of it. Adam does a good job when I'm scrambling finding space and getting open."

UND needed its offense to seal the game, as the defense struggled to stop explosive plays.

The Fighting Hawks' defense gave up three touchdowns of more than 40 yards, including a 72-yard bomb from Theo Day (334 passing yards) to Deion McShane (six catches, 157 yards) in the fourth quarter.

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The 72-yard strike was a one-play drive right after UND appeared to grab all the momentum.

The Fighting Hawks had just scored on a 6-yard Schuster keeper, which came one play after a Tyler Hoosman 46-yard run.

Hoosman, playing against his former team, finished with 17 carries for 101 yards and a touchdown.

Schuster's 6-yard touchdown run was the second time UND grabbed a nine-point lead in the second half.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Hoosman scored from 6 yards out to go up seven points. UND elected to go for a 2-point conversion and Schuster met UNI linebacker Spencer Cuvelier in the hole but made a move to score easily and make it 22-13 UND.

Day, a 6-foot-5, big-armed quarterback from Michigan State, was a handful. He finished 20-for-27 and had two receivers (McShane with 157 and Sam Schnee with 108) go over 100 yards.

For the second week in a row, UND's opponent targeted the inexperienced cornerbacks on the opposite side of veteran C.J. Siegel.

"A little of it is experience; we're not playing good situational football," Schweigert said. "We're playing a number of guys out there, and it isn't always the guy chasing the receiver. We're working too hard to be up nine points and give it back to them on one play. He threw it 60 yards in the air, but we have to stop those plays. We sure do."

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But for the eighth time in the last nine Missouri Valley games for UND, the Hawks had a one-score game on their hands.

"We needed to win a fourth quarter game like that," Schweigert said. "We really did. We have things to clean up, but we're going to enjoy this one. We're going to enjoy it, and we have to get better."

Related Topics: UND FOOTBALLUND SPORTS
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, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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