Strong second half propels UND football past SDSU


GRAND FORKS, N.D. (SDSU) – No. 14 North Dakota controlled the second half, scoring three touchdowns en route to a 28-17 victory over third-ranked South Dakota State Saturday afternoon at the Alerus Center.

UND improved to 2-0 both overall and in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. The Jackrabbits dropped to 1-1.

Early on, SDSU executed the vertical passing game to build an early lead. On the second play from scrimmage, freshman quarterback Mark Gronowski connected with Jadon Janke on a 49-yard pass play to the UND 18. Three plays later, Jadon Janke’s twin brother, Jaxon, took a screen pass 18 yards to the end zone to finish off the opening drive of the game.

Special teams were key throughout the game, with the Fighting Hawks successfully executing a fake punt to extend their first scoring drive. A pass from punter Cade Peterson to Garett Maag went for 23 yards and a first down to the midfield stripe. Otis Weah capped the methodical, 15-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.

The Jackrabbits, however, had a quick answer as, on the first play of the ensuing drive, Gronowski hit Jaxon Janke deep over the middle for a 76-yard touchdown.

The score would remain 14-7 in favor of the Jackrabbits until the third quarter. UND took the second-half kickoff and marched 75 yards on eight plays, tying the game at 14-all on a 1-yard touchdown run by Luke Skokna. He set up the touchdown with a 43-yard run earlier in the drive.

Once again SDSU responded, this time settling for a 39-yard field goal and a 17-14 lead after a 45-yard pass from Gronowski to Jadon Janke on the first play of the drive. Jadon Janke tallied career highs of five catches for 109 yards, with Jaxon Janke also finishing with a career day of seven catches for 161 yards.

From there it was all UND.

The Fighting Hawks turned the momentum firmly in their favor with another special teams play, blocking a punt and taking over at the SDSU 18. UND needed only two plays to take its first lead with Maag catching a 16-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Schuster.

UND made it a two-score game with the help of a fortuitous bounce of the ball on the Alerus Center turf midway through the fourth quarter. Weah broke around right end for a big gain, but was stripped of the football by the Jackrabbits’ Isaiah Stalbird at the 6-yard line. The ball, however, bounced right back into Weah’s hands as he fell into the end zone. The result: a 40-yard touchdown run and a 28-17 UND lead.

The Fighting Hawk defense rose to the occasion, as well, forcing two fourth-quarter turnovers and three for the game. UND also recorded three sacks in the game.

SDSU finished with a 405-384 advantage in total offense as Gronowski finished the afternoon 16-of-32 passing for 309 yards. Pierre Strong, Jr. led the Jackrabbits on the ground with 95 yards on 17 carries.

For UND, Schuster completed 20-of-32 passes for 184 yards, with Maag catching five passes for 87 yards. Weah finished with 88 rushing yards on 17 carries, with Skokna adding 73 yards on 10 attempts.

Logan Backhaus tallied a game-high 11 tackles for the Jackrabbits. Preston Tetzlaff contributed a career-high 10 tackles and an interception.

Noah Larson paced UND with seven tackles, including a sack.

The Jackrabbits are scheduled to open the home season next Saturday (March 6) by hosting Western Illinois. Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m. at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.


  • UND leads the all-time series, 47-34-5
  • SDSU had won each of the two previous matchups since both programs moved to Division I and the Football Championship Subdivision
  • The Jackrabbits have scored on both of their game-opening drives this season (field goal at Northern Iowa, touchdown at North Dakota)
  • The Janke brothers became the first SDSU tandem with 100 receiving yards in a game since Cade Johnson (5-162) and Adam Anderson (4-128) against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Sept. 15, 2018
  • Strong moved into 10th place in career rushing yards at SDSU with 2,320 yards, taking over the spot from Rick Wegher (2,293 yards from 1981-84)
  • Backhaus’ 11 tackles tied a career high
  • Tetzlaff’s interception marked the 20th time in the last 22 games SDSU has picked off a pass

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