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Defense plays well, but turnovers costly as Portland State loses second game in a row

Turnovers and failure to convert drives for touhdowns came back to haunt Portland State on Saturday at Grand Forks, North Dakota.

The host North Dakota Fighting Hawks outscored the Viks 10-0 in the fourth quarter and won 17-10.

Three turnovers hurt PSU, which was coming off a 48-45 loss at home to Idaho State, after winning three games in a row.

The Vikings fell to 4-6 overall and 3-4 in the Big Sky.

North Dakota, playing as an independent this year but continuing to face mostly Big Sky opponents, snapped a two-game skid and improved to 6-4.

Portland State led in total offense, with 300 yards to North Dakota's 222. PSU ran 73 plays to UND's 55, with 33:04 possession time to the home team's 26:56.

North Dakota committed only one turnover, though. It came early in the game, as senior linebacker Sam Bodine intercepted a pass thrown right to him at the PSU 11 to stop UND's opening drive.

Jalani Eason started at quarterback for Portland State, but was sacked on first down and came out for Alexander. Two plays later, he was sacked, too.

Alexander played most of the rest of the way, though Eason came in at various times.

Those initial sacks led to good field position for the Fighting Hawks. And QB Nate Ketteringham scored on a 1-yard run with 3:23 left in the first player to cap an eight-play, 50-yard drive.

In the second quarter, Alexander's scrambling helped PSU be effective on offense for the first time in the game. Then, on a third-and-6 play, he bought time and found running back Darian Green with a pass that went for 27 yards to the UND 6. But, after tight end AJ Ruffin dropped a pass in the end zone, the Vikings had to settle for Cody Williams' 25-yard field goal — after 17 plays on an 86-yard drive.

Late in the half, Alexander hooked up with wide receiver Emmanuel Daigbe for 46 yards to the Hawks' 31. But the QB was called for international grounding in the final minute and then was sacked, taking PSU out of field-goal position and leaving the Viks down 7-3.

A bad third-quarter exchange between Eason and running back Antwone Williams resulted in a lost fumble and gave UND the ball at its 49.

PSU held, though, and on the Vikings' next possession, Alexander escaped a blitz and ran for eight yards and a first down on fourth-and-7 from the UND 30. Four plays later, and with 3:49 left in the third quarter, Alexander scored his 11th rushing touchdown of the season, pushing the ball across the goal line from the 4. That completed a 15-play, 80-yard march that took nearly seven minutes and put the Vikings in front, 10-7.

But on the first play of the fourth quarter, the Fighting Hawks tipped an Alexander pass, picked it off and returned it 58 yards for a go-ahead touchdown. The PAT after defensive back Lenny Nelson IV's TD gave the home team a 14-10 lead.

The Vikings got a nice drive going, but running back Carlos Martin had the ball knocked loose at the UND 22, and the Hawks recovered with 11:20 remaining.

UND eventually was able to drive and use up a lot of the clock, and drew PSU offside on fourth-and-1 at the Viking 6. The Viks stopped the Hawks on three runs, forcing a field goal that made the UND lead 17-10 with 54 seconds left.

The Vikings wound up having to attempt a Hail Mary from their 43 on the final play of the game. It was knocked down at the UND 10 by the defense.

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