TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Jayden de Laura threw for 229 yards and a touchdown, ran for another score, and Arizona rallied to beat North Dakota State 31-28 on Saturday night.
The Wildcats snapped North Dakota State’s FBS win streak at six games, dating to 2010. The Bison have won nine out of the past 11 national championships at the FCS level and boast several NFL alumni — including quarterbacks Carson Wentz, Trey Lance and Easton Stick.
Arizona was trailing 28-24 midway through the fourth quarter but got a crucial stop on fourth-and-2 at its own 23 to flip momentum. The Wildcats then drove the field and took a 31-28 lead on de Laura’s perfectly placed 22-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Cowing in the corner of the end zone.
Arizona’s defense did the rest, holding NDSU’s previously prolific running game in check. De Laura finished 20-of-29 passing.
North Dakota State’s Hunter Luepke scored three touchdowns — two on the ground and one through the air. He ran for 115 yards, leading the Bison’s 283-yard rushing attack.
NDSU came into Saturday’s game with six straight wins over FBS programs, knocking off Kansas, Minnesota, Colorado State, Kansas State, Iowa State and No. 11 Iowa.
Luepke looked like he was going to be the hero on Saturday, plowing through the line of scrimmage for a 38-yard touchdown to give the Bison a 28-24 lead late in the third quarter. The 236-pound fullback was so excited during the celebration that he even bowled over teammate Jake Lippe during the celebration before helping him up.
But Arizona had one more rally left in the back-and-forth contest.
The Wildcats led 17-14 on Tyler Loop’s 36-yard field goal at the halftime buzzer.
Arizona jumped ahead 7-0 in the first quarter on Michael Wiley’s 6-yard touchdown run. North Dakota State tied it at 7-all later in the first when Cam Miller found Luepke all alone for a 31-yard touchdown pass.
The Bison looked like they were about to grab the lead in the second quarter, but Hunter Echols strip-sacked Miller at the Arizona 17 and the Wildcats were able to recover the fumble. It was one of many examples of an opportunistic Arizona defense that gave up 407 yards but came up big at crucial moments.
Arizona took advantage of the turnover, driving the field and grabbing a 14-7 lead on de Laura’s 7-yard touchdown run. Once again, the Bison responded with Miller’s 2-yard run with 50 seconds before halftime tied it at 14.
North Dakota St: The Bison are very good at what they do, using a bruising running game and occasional passing to move the ball. But their FBS winning streak is now over because the defense couldn’t get enough pressure on de Laura.
Arizona: It’s an under-the-radar great win for the Wildcats, who look like they’ll be competitive in the Pac-12 just one season after finishing with a 1-11 record.
North Dakota St: Travel to face South Dakota next Saturday.
Arizona: Travel to face California next Saturday.
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