BOZEMAN, Mont. — Brady Oliveira ran 22 times for 171 yards and two touchdowns, including a key touchdown late in the fourth quarter in North Dakota’s 17-15 win over Montana State on Saturday.
Oliveria’s 60-yard gallop gave the Fighting Hawks a 17-9 lead with 2:27 to play. MSU rallied with a 3-yard touchdown run by Chad Newell, but Newell failed to score on the two-point conversion attempt after a pass interference call against UND moved the ball to the one.
MSU (2-2, 0-1 Big Sky) recovered the onside kick, but Tyler Bruggman threw his third interception three plays later.
MSU, which came into the game leading the nation in turnover ratios, turned the ball over five times to just one for UND (2-2, 1-0).
“That was the entire difference in the game. Period.” MSU head coach Jeff Choate said of the turnovers. “Cannot win a game like that. That’s a really tough one.”
MSU had two chances to win the game with a field goal, but couldn’t get the ball into UND territory on either drive.
“I probably thought that game was over two or three times,” UND safety Cole Reyes said. “It’s probably one of the funnest games I’ve ever been in. I’m spent but it’s fun to win a game like that.”
Reid Taubenheim kicked a 22-yard field goal late in the third quarter to put UND ahead for good at 10-9.
Neither team could reach the end zone in the first half until UND’s Oliveira scored from two yards with just 59 seconds remaining following a fumble by MSU’s Chad Newell. MSU had scored on field goals of 26 and 31 yards by Gabe Peppenger earlier.
Following the touchdown Newell, a senior captain, left the game with an apparent leg injury, but returned in the second half. He ran for 68 yards on nine carries prior to the injury, but limited to just 32 yards in the second half finishing with 18 carries for 100 yards.
Montana State struggled offensively for the fourth straight game, but got a spark from true freshman receiver Kevin Kassis, who had 4 catches for 90 yards. MSU will need more players to emerge on offense if it expects to stay in the league race.
North Dakota has seen all four of its games decided by four points or less and have now won the last two after falling to Stony Brook and FBS Bowling Green. Experience in close games will likely go a long way in what appears to be a balanced Big Sky Conference.
UP NEXT: Montana State travels to Sacramento State for a conference game against the Hornets (0-1, 1-3), who lost 42-34 to Idaho State.
North Dakota hosts Cal Poly in a conference game. Cal Poly upset Montana 42-41 at home and also sits at 1-0 in the Big Sky.
Online: The AP’s college football page http://collegefootball.ap.org