- Associated Press - Sunday, November 22, 2015

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (AP) - North Dakota did all it could on Saturday to convince the FCS it belongs in the playoffs, routing Cal Poly 45-21 in the Big Sky Conference. Now it waits.

John Santiago rushed for 117 yards and three touchdowns in the team’s first game as the Fighting Hawks (7-4, 4-3 Big Sky).

Santiago scored on runs of 14, 15 and 5 yards to support Keaton Studsrud, who completed 17 of 20 passes for 255 yards and two scores.

The Hawks rolled up 474 yards of total offense. They took charge in a 21-point second quarter and went into halftime leading 28-0. They have won three straight to give themselves an outside shot at a playoff berth.

“A few weeks ago it didn’t look very good for us,” UND coach Bubba Schweigert said. “But to dig deep and win three in a row, that’s a great job by our guys. We’ll see what happens. I think we should be in.”

The FCS playoff field will be announced on Sunday.

UND had more yards through the air (255) than on the ground (219).

“Good balance makes it tough. We were really efficient on offense,” Schweigert said.

North Dakota recovered a Cal Poly fumble at the Mustangs 32 just 1:51 into the game. The Fighting Hawks converted that into a Santiago 14-yard TD run and Taubenheim PAT for a 7-0 lead.

Cal Poly responded with a 12-play, 69-yard drive. But the UND defense rose up at the goal line and stopped Cal Poly on fourth-and-goal at the 1.

Studsrud took over. He ran for 1 yard, and then completed three straight passes to different receivers. The drive ended after 14 plays and 99 yards when Santiago ran in from 15 yards with 14:22 left in the half.

“That was a pivotal point in the game,” Schweigert said of the Hawks’ longest drive of the season.

The Mustangs’ next possession ended with Kori Garcia’s fumble, which led to Studsrud’s 64-yard TD pass to Clive Georges for a 21-0 lead with 13:02 left in the half.

Georges had five catches for 141 yards.

The Hawks upped the lead to 28-0 on Studsrud’s 8-yard pass to Luke Stanley with 3:29 remaining in the half.

It was 35-0 on Santiago’s 5-yard run early in the third quarter before the Mustangs got on the board.

Chris Brown’s 3-yard run with 7:01 left in the third quarter ended the shutout. And with 10 seconds left in the quarter, Brown tossed a 61-yard TD pass to Roland Jackson to make it 35-14.

Brown added a 1-yard sneak with 1:17 to play.

Brown had 21 carries for 63 yards and threw for 211 yards.

Reid Taubenheim made it 38-14 with a 24-yard field goal with 7:24 to play and Kyle Norberg capped the scoring with a run of 10 yards, followed by a fumble and a recovery in the end zone.

Cal Poly (4-7, 3-5) entered the game averaging 410.7 yards rushing, but managed just 153 against the Fighting Hawks.

“It was a blast playing tonight,” said UND linebacker Will Ratelle, who had 11 tackles. “I don’t know if we’re playing next week or not. If not, it was a great way to end my career.”


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