Eagles roll over UND with big second half surge
Eastern’s 55-17 win features 99-yard kickoff return by Hill, two TDs from Kaufman, Herd
The Eastern Washington University defense stops North Dakota quarterback Braden Hanson at the goal line. Hanson would score a play later.
The University of North Dakota has no nickname nor mascot.
And last Saturday the school, whose teams were formerly known as the Fighting Sioux, also had no answers to stop Eastern Washington University in a Big Sky Conference football game played at Roos Field in front of a crowd of 8,646 on Hall of Fame Day.
Scoring on the ground, through the air, and with special teams, Eastern (3-0 Big Sky, 4-1 overall) steamrolled UND 55-17 in the first-ever meeting between the schools.
“That was obviously the most complete game we’ve played up to this point,” Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin said. “Every unit made a ton of plays.”
The win gives the now No. 6 Eagles solid momentum heading into their showdown Saturday in Bozeman against the No. 2 ranked Bobcats (3-0, 6-0) in a 12:40 p.m. kickoff on Root Sports.
Eastern’s 38-point winning margin was its best since a 52-13 win over Montana-Western in 2007, and the largest versus a NCAA Football Championship Subdivision opponent since a 51-7 win over Weber State in 2004.
North Dakota (1-2, 3-3), banned from using their former nickname by a ruling from their state’s Board of Higher Education earlier this year and ordered not to adopt a new one until 2015, saw their effort to stay with the Eagles fall apart in a series of quick scoring drives.
After North Dakota scored on their first possession to take a 7-0 lead on Mitch Sutton’s 2-yard run.
Eastern scored the next two times they touched the ball as redshirt freshman quarterback Vernon Adams connected for touchdowns with Greg Herd for 28 yards and 36 yards to Ashton Clark giving the Eagles a 13-7 lead.
A Zeb Miller 37-yard field goal with 1:09 to play in the opening quarter drew UND within 13-10. But on the ensuing kickoff Shaquille Hill took the ball at the goal line, angled left, found a seam and was gone 99 yards down the sideline giving Eastern a 20-10 lead just 13 seconds later.
Brandon Kaufman made it 27-10, catching a 12-yard Adams’ pass with 8:49 to go in the half.
Braden Hanson closed out a 79-yard drive that burned 7:20 off the clock with his 2-yard dive through a pile at the goal line with 1:29 remaining drawing UND to within 10 at 27-17.
Eastern used a 7-play, 57-yard drive – launched by another big 41-yard kickoff return from Hill – and Herd scored with just 13 seconds remaining in the half for the score that put Eastern up 34-17 and sent a stunned team to the locker room at the half.
UND owned a slim 223-222 edge over Eastern in total first half yards. But that advantage, and any hope of a complete comeback, would vanish in the second half. Eastern ultimately won the total offense battle 458-325 and the Eagles outscored UND 21-0 in the final two quarters.
North Dakota’s first drive of the second half ended in a punt at their own 46, but Eastern was given gift field possession on their own 38 when Brett Cameron shanked his punt which traveled just 16 yards.
Eastern got a huge first down out of a third and 18 on a scramble by Adams for 23 yards down to the UND 35. “I just saw the defense, everyone went back like it was a prevent,” Adams said. “I saw I had room to run and I just ran and got the first down.”
Three plays later Adams found Herd with a screen pass, but as he crossed the 15 the ball slipped out of Herd’s hands, but amazingly Clark was there to pick up the bouncing ball and raced into the end zone with 8:55 left in the third to make it 41-17. Herd did finish with a pair of TDs, his first of the season.
“Greg Herd was someone who was going to explode at some point,” Baldwin said.
It took just three plays for Eastern to get the ball back as UND’s Jake Miller fumbled on his own 42. Jordan Pulu recovered for the Eagles and four plays later Kyle Padron connected with Kaufman for a foot-dragging 9-yard touchdown catch with 6:39 remaining in the third – just 2:16 after the last EWU score – putting the Eagles up 48-17.
Kaufman, however, fell short of a fifth consecutive 100-yard game, finishing with 47 yards, but a pair of scores.
Demitrius Bronson closed out the scoring, and a breakout performance running the ball, rolling up 118 net yards, with his 1-yard run with 7:47 remaining in the game. Bronson has been dogged by a hamstring injury all through fall camp and into the season but showed no signs of it Saturday as he broke a number of big runs, his longest 34 yards.
The Eagles rushed for 290 yards with Bronson coming off the bench for 118 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. This was his first 100-yard outing as an Eagle. Starter Quincy Forte finished with 72 yards.
“The coach gave me the opportunity to tote the rock,” the University of Washington transfer said. “I just feel like it was a long time coming.”
Bronson also delivered a hard hit on UND linebacker Derrick Goard with 7:39 remaining in the third. The blow sent Goard to a Spokane hospital via ambulance where he was checked out and later released so he could join his team on their flight back to Grand Forks.
Defensively, redshirt freshman Jordan Tonani had a team-leading 11 tackles in his first start as an Eagle as an injury replacement for safety Jeff Minnerly out indefinitely with a broken collarbone. Junior Allen Brown added 10 tackles and senior defensive end Jerry Ceja had 1 1/2 sacks.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.