UND’s playoff hopes sink as Northern Arizona upsets Fighting Hawks 31-16
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — University of North Dakota football followers spent the week trying to decode what needed to happen for the Fighting Hawks to make the FCS playoffs.
On Saturday, Nov. 17, the UND football team took care of the most important angle of postseason scenarios.
The Fighting Hawks didn’t hold up their end of any postseason scenario by falling 31-16 to struggling Northern Arizona at Walkup Skydome in the regular-season finale.
UND ended the regular season 6-5, while NAU finished 4-6.
With a poor offensive performance, UND had one final shot to come back in the fourth quarter when safety Jordan Canady intercepted an NAU pass with a little more than seven minutes remaining and NAU hanging on to an eight-point lead.
On third-and-2, UND running back Brady Oliveira was stuffed for no gain near midfield with 6:56 to play.
UND coach Bubba Schweigert elected to punt, and the Hawks never got the ball back in a one-score game.
Cory Young scored on a 1-yard touchdown run to cap an 80-yard, 13-play drive. Young’s score gave the Lumberjacks a 31-16 lead with 1:01 remaining.
UND struggled against an opponent playing a converted wide receiver at quarterback. NAU played its third- and fourth-string quarterbacks against the Hawks.
UND had a nightmare start. The Hawks fell behind 17-0 in the first half and 14-0 after the first quarter.
Northern Arizona started the scoring with a 9-yard run by Aramis Aldredge. Less than four minutes later, after UND quarterback Nate Ketteringham threw an interception over the middle of the field, Lumberjacks quarterback Brandon Porter found Emmanuel Butler for a 30-yard touchdown pass and a 14-0 lead.
UND received a gift to swing momentum in the first half. NAU punt returner Justis Stokes muffed a punt midway through the second quarter, a fumble that was recovered by UND’s Hayden Blubaugh at the NAU 29.
On third-and-14 from the 21, Ketteringham connected with Noah Wanzek on an out route in the back corner of the end zone. The touchdown connection cut the NAU lead to 17-7 with 5:37 to halftime.
UND further cut into the NAU lead on its next drive thanks to a 34-yard Brady Oliveira screen pass and two pass interference penalties.
The drive was capped by a Brady Leach 35-yard field goal to make it 17-10 with 2:54 left in the second quarter.
The Hawks, who have relied on a ground game, rushed for only 128 yards on 41 attempts. Santiago finished with 55 yards on 12 attempts while Oliveira ended with 18 yards on eight rushes.
UND also struggled throwing the ball as well. Ketteringham completed 13 of 29 attempts for 109 yards. But he also had two interceptions.
Neither team had a big offensive day. UND finished with 192 yards of offense while NAU ended with 270.
Each team had eight punts on the day.
The NCAA FCS playoff pairings will be released today.
UND was attempting to make the 24-team field after an injury-riddled 2017 season that ended 3-8.
UND did make the FCS playoffs in 2016, falling at home to Richmond in the opening round.