Cougars stun UND, 28-13
GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- All week, Sioux Falls quarterback Lorenzo Brown heard the talk.
The consensus was that the Cougars -- even though they won a national championship at the NAIA level -- did not belong on the field with a Division I FCS program like UND.
Brown listened to the talk but walked the walk, leading Sioux Falls to a stunning -- and surprisingly easy -- 28-13 win against UND on Saturday before 7,807 Alerus Center fans, many of whom didn't wait around to watch the Cougars celebrate one of their biggest wins in school history.
The talk didn't bother Brown, a one-player wrecking crew who rushed for 100 yards and threw for 237 and a three touchdowns.
"It's the reason why we play football and (fans) don't," Brown said. "People will talk until you go out there and prove something. We proved what kind of game we have and what we can do with the big boys, is you want to say big boys.
"The NAIA level has good players. It's level, that's it."
Sioux Falls, which scored on its first possession, played at a much higher level that UND.
The loss was one of UND's more disappointing setbacks in school history. Losing to an NAIA team was not on the Sioux radar, even though UND was well aware of the Cougars' NAIA national success.
"Give them credit," UND coach Chris Mussman said. "They beat us in every facet. Offensively, they were better. Defensively, they were better. On special teams, they weren't going to let Ismael (Bamba) or Dominique (Hawkins) beat us."
The Sioux struggled in all areas, physically and mentally.
"We came out flat for the second week in a row and that's unacceptable," Sioux linebacker Ryan Kasowski said. "They just outperformed us. It wasn't the big play or the little things. They beat us on the emotion side of the ball and that's the most frustrating thing."
Statistically, the game was even. Both teams finished with 360 yards of offense, although most of UND's yardage came late as Sioux Falls played to protect its two-touchdown lead.
Brown accounted for 337 of his team's yards. The senior quarterback from Bristol, Conn., time after time managed to convert third-down plays by either scrambling for the necessary yards or completing passes to either Scott LeBrun (8 catches, 87 yards), Ryan Lowmiller (6, 28) or Alex Anderson (3, 32).
"(Brown) was the key to their team and he proved it," Mussman said. "We had a tough time tackling him. And when we got pressure on him, we had a tough time getting him down."
Sioux Falls set the tone on its first possession. The Cougars went up 7-0 on Brown's 7-yard pass to Scott LeBrun with 10:11 remaining.
"That was a huge part of the game," Sioux Falls coach Kalen DeBoer said. "It was important to come out strong for our confidence. And it got them on their heels."
The Sioux later responded with Brandon Hellevang's 23-yard field goal. But the Cougars scored on their ensuing possession, capped by Brown's 12-yard pass to Brad Theilen.
The first of three Jake Landry interceptions was converted into another Sioux Falls touchdown. Anderson's 32-yard scoring pass from Brown left Sioux Falls with a 21-3 lead with 6:46 left in the half.
Sioux Falls led 21-6 at halftime. UND's only spark came on its first possession of the third quarter. Ryan Konrath hauled in a 24-yard touchdown pass from Landry to cut the deficit to 21-13.
But Sioux Falls scored again four plays later on Brown's 5-yard run. He opened the drive with a 36-yard run.
"He's really agile," Kasowski said of Brown. "You can't practice for his mobility. He was running around and we were chasing him."
Brown's 5-yard run with 9:53 remaining closed out the scoring.
Even when Sioux Falls didn't score, the Cougars were effective. One of their second-half possessions lasted more than nine minutes. The 17-play, 63-yard drive ended with a missed 28-yard field-goal attempt.
It was about the only negative in a day of positives for the Cougars, who didn't turn the ball over and kept penalties to a minimum.
UND, meanwhile, was undisciplined on a number of occasions. The Sioux, in addition to their three turnovers, were penalized 10 times for 103 yards.
"We just couldn't get anything going," Sioux defensive back Kris Ankenbauer said. "Watching film on them, we weren't surprised by their athleticism. I was surprised we weren't able to hang with them."
Sioux Falls improved to 7-0 and now has its sights set on another big win -- the NAIA national championship.
The Sioux, 3-3, will regroup and head to Southern Utah this week.
"They came in and beat our (butt)," Mussman said.