DICKINSON, N.D. – Mark Sulser must have given one heck of a halftime speech.
After being shut out in the first half, Montana responded with 55 unanswered points to defeat North Dakota 55-7 Saturday in the 25th annual Knights of Columbus Badlands Bowl on the campus of Dickinson State University.
North Dakota looked like it was ready to avenge last year’s 63-0 loss, as West Fargo quarterback Andy Gravdahl threw an 85-yard touchdown pass to high school teammate Joe Pistorius on North Dakota’s first offensive possession. The home team defense then kept Montana off the board through halftime.
But the visitors were a different squad after the break.
Former Kalispell Glacier running back Drew Turner tied the game with a 25-yard touchdown run on Montana’s opening possession of the third quarter. The future Montana Grizzly scored three touchdowns on the night.
Mark Estes, Turner’s former Wolfpack teammate, then took a slant pass 38 yards on Montana’s next drive down to the 2-yard line. Huntley Project running back Lane Sumner scored two plays later to give Montana its first lead, 14-7. Both Estes and Sumner are headed to Montana State.
Sumner scored his second touchdown minutes later, breaking tackles on a dive up the middle which turned into a 23-yard TD. Then, North Dakota fumbled the ensuing kickoff, which Billings West linebacker Tyler Buckingham recovered. Helena quarterback Kaleb Winterburn found Estes for a touchdown on the next play to put Montana up 28-7.
Estes was named Montana’s offensive MVP of the game, while Buckingham earned defensive MVP honors.
Montana has now won four straight Badlands Bowls, and seven of the past eight, to take a 19-6 all-time lead in the series.