November 9, 2013

Football sees lead slip away at North Dakota

By HEATHER KENNEDY
UNCBears.com

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – For the second-straight week, turnovers were the difference in the game for Northern Colorado football.

With 4:53 on the clock, senior Tromaine Dennis (Jersey City, N.J.) fumbled, setting up a short field for North Dakota, which took advantage, scoring on an 11-yard reception by senior wideout Greg Hardin. The two point conversion was good, giving UND a 24-21 win on its Senior Day.

The Bears (1-9, 0-6 Big Sky Conference) defense caused trouble all day long for North Dakota (3-7, 2-5 Big Sky), recording two interceptions, three quarterback hurries, two sacks, three pass break ups and a blocked kick, but it wasn't enough to seal the win.

Junior linebacker Leilon Willingham (Denver) led all players with 11 tackles. Defensive ends Devontae Chapple (Denver) and Gavin Miller (Greeley) each had a sack, while safeties Kyle Griffin (Arvada, Colo.) and Timi Niweigha (San Jose, Calif.) each had an interception.

On offense, senior wide receiver Will Jefferson Jr. had the best day of his career, catching eight passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns. Senior quarterback Seth Lobato (Eaton, Colo.) completed 18-of-33 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked once and threw an interception in the waning moments.

Dennis finished the day with 96 rushing yards and caught four passes for another 58 yards.

Northern Colorado was without the services of its top two receivers in senior Jace Davis and junior Dimitri Stimphil. Both missed the game due to personal reasons.

The Bears broke onto the scoreboard first as they drove 60 yards in nine plays and Lobato punched it in from one yard out for his second rushing touchdown of the year.

North Dakota answered on the ensuing drive, going 78 yards in 12 plays. Adam Shaugabay scored on a one-yard rush. The snap on the PAT was high, forcing UND to try for the rush, but the Bears stopped them to maintain a 7-6 lead.

Niweigha intercepted a pass – the team's first in five games – setting up a 30-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, but the kick went wide right to keep the score 7-6 at halftime.

On the opening drive of the third quarter, North Dakota drove downfield, but the Bears defense forced a 51-yard field goal attempt. Singleton recorded his second block of the season and junior Courtney Hall (Pompano Beach, Fla.) picked up the live ball and returned it 49 yards to the UND 23. On the very next play, Lobato found Jefferson in the endzone and the Jamie Falloon (Boulder, Colo.) PAT gave the Bears a 14-6 lead.

After the defense again played strong and forced a UND punt, Lobato found Jefferson twice, once for a six-yard gain on the second, Jefferson scampered up the sideline for 35 yards and his second touchdown of the day. Falloon again nailed the PAT for the 21-6 advantage with 10:11 on the clock.

UND scored on a 26-yard field goal to make the scoreboard read 21-9 with 7:04 remaining in the third quarter. On the ensuing drive for UND, they drove 86 yards in nine plays, scoring on a 31-yard reception by Kenny Golladay to cut the Bears lead to five, 21-16 with 2:02 left in the third.

Lobato found Jefferson 47 yards downfield on the first play of the following drive and North Dakota blocked Falloon's 20-yard field goal attempt. The defense remained tough, getting a sack and forcing a 3-and-out.

Griffin had the team's second pick of the day, stopping a long drive for North Dakota and giving the Bears possession with 6:31 to play. The interception was Griffin's third of the year and fourth of his career.

With 2:51 remaining, North Dakota took its first lead of the day, scoring on an 11-yard reception by Greg Hardin. The two-point conversion was good for the 24-21 advantage.

A North Dakota interception with 1:12 sealed the victory on Senior Day for UND.

The Bears remain on the road, heading to their third dome of the year, playing at Northern Arizona next Saturday. Kickoff is slated for 4:00 p.m.