Western Illinois falls to North Dakota

Trevor Davis, Courier Staff

The third ranked Fighting Hawks of North Dakota came to Macomb on Saturday to take on Western Illinois. The Fighting Hawks left Macomb with a 38-21 victory over the Leathernecks. 

Saturday’s game had no shortage of impressive accomplishments for both teams. Connor Sampson threw for 336 yards on 33-47 passing. The 33 completions in a single game is third all-time in Western history and Sampson now owns the top three spots in WIU history for completions in a game. Punter Adam Fellner also etched his name in Leatherneck history with a 71 yard punt in the first quarter, which is the seventh longest in program history. On the defensive side of the ball, senior defensive back Justin Nutof tied his career high with 13 total tackles. 

For UND, freshman quarterback Tommy Schuster threw for 328 yards and three touchdowns, both career highs. Kicker Adam Stage nailed a 46 yard field goal which is his longest in a North Dakota uniform. As a team, the Fighting Hawks ran for 216 yards which was the third time this season that UND surpassed 200 yards rushing and held the ball for 41 minutes. 

North Dakota received the football to start the game for the first time this season, and put together a promising drive. Schuster found Garett Maag for a 49 yard reception, but WIU’s Braylen Brooks stripped Maag before he could reach the end zone and halted the North Dakota drive. Despite the turnover the Leathernecks were unable to generate any offense. WIU went three and out without gaining a yard. A 71 yard punt from Adam Fellner pinned UND back. Even with the poor field position, the Fighting Hawks were able to put together a 16 play, 82 yard drive capped off by an eight yard touchdown rush from Luke Skonka to take the lead. After the first quarter, North Dakota led 7-0 and held Western to just 25 yards of total offense. 

After forcing another Western Illinois punt, UND once again put together a long and time-consuming drive. The Hawks went 92 yards in 10 plays to take a 14-0 lead. The leathernecks would respond on their next drive. WIU would score it’s first points thanks to a 2 yard touchdown run by Iosefa Pua’auli. This marked the first career touchdown for the freshman Pua’auli. North Dakota would add another score to make it 21-7. After a muffed punt by UND, the Leathernecks found themselves with an opportunity to chip away at the lead before halftime. The North Dakota defense would stand firm and force a 44 yard field goal attempt, that would be missed. The Fighting Hawks would take a 21-7 advantage to the locker room at half time. 

For WIU, Pua’auli would add a second rushing touchdown in the third quarter, and Connor Sampson would get his only passing touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter. North Dakota would go on to win the game 38-21. 

Western will travel to Normal, Illinois to take on number 22 Illinois state, and North Dakota will take on in-state rival North Dakota State in a top five matchup.