Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011
GRAND FORKS, N.D.--The Drake Bulldogs dropped their season-opening football game to the North Dakota Fighting Sioux Thursday night by a score of 16-0 at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks, N.D. It was the first football meeting between the Bulldogs and Fighting Sioux of the Great West Conference.
North Dakota's balanced offensive attack and solid defensive play made it tough on Drake all night. The Bulldogs were able to put together more consistent drives in the second half, but twice turned the ball over in the third quarter when the opportunity existed to get back in the game.
Drake took the second half kickoff and marched 75 yards in 15 plays to move to the North Dakota 4-yard line, trailing 13-0, but fumbled the snap and North Dakota recovered. On its following drive Drake moved the ball to the Fighting Sioux 31-yard line but came up short on a fourth-down conversion attempt.
"North Dakota is a good team, and credit to them," said head coach Chris Creighton. "But at the same time, without watching the film yet, we missed tackles on defense, and made mistakes offensively. We shot ourselves in the foot, and special teams didn't have a great game. But they're all fixable problems, so that's really frustrating because if we had handled those things, this is a football game we feel we could have won."
Quarterback Mike Piatkowski (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton Warrenville South) completed 21 of 30 passes for 201 yards and was intercepted once. North Dakota cornerback Daryl Brown appeared to have a clear path down the sidelines for a touchdown but Piatkowski showed tremendous hustle to run him out of bounds at the 9-yard line and the defense held the Sioux to a field goal.
"It was a great hustle play," Creighton said. "It could have been a 'Pick 6' and he hustled down there and made a great tackle."
Piatkowski avoided the rush on a number of occasions and continued to find spots to make plays down the field, but could not cash in.
"We were able to move the ball," Piatkowski said. "It was a great job by the defense to keep us in it. We didn't have their backs tonight."
Running back Pat Cashmore (Kansas City, Mo./St. Pius X) rushed eight times for 29 yards and Trey Morse (Elmo, Texas/Parish Episcopal) carried five times for 25 yards. Running back Nathan Paddock (Lee's Summit, Mo./Lee's Summit West) led all receivers with 70 yards on six receptions, while Drew Blackmon (Florissant, Mo./St. Louis University High) added six receptions for 70 yards. Defensive end Brandon Coleman (Cary, Ill./Cary-Grove) had three sacks among his six solo tackles, and linebacker Travis Merritt (Johnston, Iowa/Johnston) led the team with seven tackles (6 solo).
North Dakota running back Mitch Sutton set the tone early with 51 rushing yards in the first quarter and finished with 109 yards on 24 carries. Quarterback Joey Bradley completed 18 of 26 for 137 yards in his first start after transferring from California.
The halftime statistics leaned heavily in North Dakota's favor, as the Fighting Sioux outgained the Bulldogs 200 to 75, and enjoyed an 11-5 advantage in first downs. North Dakota converted 8-of-12 third-down attempts and held an advantage of 19:05 to 10:55 in time of possession in taking a 10-0 lead to the locker room.
Special teams were a trouble spot for Drake throughout the first half. The Bulldogs had a field goal attempt blocked from 39 yards and led the Fighting Sioux out of a hole late in the second quarter when they were called for roughing North Dakota punter Brett Cameron on a 46-yard punt from his own goal-line, that would have provided favorable field position.
"It was 10-0 at the half and we had a blocked field goal we couldn't convert on, and the roughing the punting penalty when we would have gotten the ball at midfield with some momentum," Creighton said. "At halftime, to me, it should have been 10-7 and we were getting the ball in the second half."
The Bulldogs trailed 3-0 after one quarter, as North Dakota converted a 41-yard field goal on its second possession. Linebacker Seth Hedman (Tulsa, Okla./Holland Hall) forced the field goal try with a sack on 3rd-and-11 as he came free on a delay up the middle for his first of two sacks on the night.
North Dakota extended its lead to 10-0 with 5:16 remaining in the second quarter when Jake Miller scored on an 11-yard run to cap an 11-play, 67-yard march. Sutton carried the load on the bulk of the drive to set up Miller's scoring run.
Drake now turns its attention to its home opener versus Grand View next Saturday, Sept. 10 at 6 p.m. at Drake Stadium.