Pope leads North Dakota past Montana

DICKINSON, N.D. -- Looking at the final score of the 17th annual Badlands Bowl all-star football game Saturday night at the Badlands Activities Center, it's almost ludicrous to think defense was a factor.

DICKINSON, N.D. -- Looking at the final score of the 17th annual Badlands Bowl all-star football game Saturday night at the Badlands Activities Center, it's almost ludicrous to think defense was a factor.

Don't tell that to North Dakota defensive back Elby Pope.

Pope, a Grand Forks Red River graduate who will play football at the University of Mary this fall, scored two touchdowns and had two interceptions as part of his North Dakota Defensive Most Valuable Player effort as Team North Dakota defeated Team Montana 41-38.

"My coaches always told me that defense win games," Pope said. "And I've always have had that in my head."

Nick Jolliffe's pick with 29 seconds to go sealed the win as Montana was driving for the win or a tying field goal. Quarterback Shay Smithwick-Hann rolled right, but threw back across the middle into Jolliffe's arms.


"I was going with him," Jolliffe said. "I was hoping he would throw it back and he did."

North Dakota's win was its first since the 2007 game at Whitney Stadium and the score was the closest since its 23-22 win in 1996.

Montana came up with the late chance to win after North Dakota gave up a safety when the snap on a punt from its 10-yard line sailed through the back of the end zone.

Montana drove from its 40-yard line to North Dakota's 8 before the interception.

Before the safety, Pope grabbed his second pick with 3 minutes left that stalled Montana once again.

The late turnovers came after Montana scored two touchdowns in the fourth.

T.J. Leep had a 3-yard touchdown run and Jordan Harper caught an 11-yard pass.

Pope's touchdowns helped North Dakota first close a deficit and then expand its lead.


His second touchdown didn't come on defense, but on the punt team. Pope pounced on a ball in the end zone after it bounced off the arms of returner Neil Mannix. That gave North Dakota a 27-16 lead.

Pope's first touchdown put North Dakota right back in the game with 2:01 left in the first half.

He picked off Smithwick-Hann's pass along the west sideline and skirted 28 yards to bring North Dakota within three points, 16-13.

Montana threw six interceptions as a team -- spread out among three passers. However, Montana broke Badlands Bowl records with 403 passing yards and 536 total yards.

"You're not going to beat Montana without any turnovers," North Dakota head coach Mark Gibson said. "It's just not going to happen."

Montana head coach Tony Arntson said those picks, and the muffed punt, were the difference.

"We were just forcing the ball too much," Arntson said.

One pick from wide receiver Matt Miller on an option play set up North Dakota's go-ahead score.


Garret Jacobs hauled in a 15-yard Esley Thorton pass in the end zone that gave North Dakota a 20-16 halftime lead.

Montana led 9-0 after the first quarter thanks to Miller's touchdown and a safety.

A North Dakota goal-line stand on Montana's second possession kept the visiting team from going up by two touchdowns. Hulse's sneak on fourth down was stopped just inches from the goal line.

The safety came two plays later after North Dakota running back Jake Miller was stopped by Bentley Alsup.

While North Dakota's defense had the big plays, its offense clicked along after a sluggish first quarter.

Jake Miller's three touchdowns tied a Badlands Bowl record and earned him the North Dakota Offensive MVP award. He had 21 carries for 151 yards.

"For a week's worth of practice, our offensive line did a heck of a job," Jake Miller said. "We put in a lot of new plays and they adapted to the system really well."

Matt Miller, a Boise State recruit, scored his team's first two touchdowns. His first one came on a 9-yard strike from Hulse 2½ minutes into the game, with the second coming from a 47-yard pass from Hulse in the second quarter.


Most of those yards on the second touchdown came on the ground after he broke three tackles right after the catch.

His 12 passes for 205 yards broke a Badlands Bowl record in both categories. He was Montana's Offensive MVP, with linebacker Jackson Lang winning its Defensive MVP award.

ND 41, Montana 38

Montana 9 7 7 15 -- 38

ND 0 20 21 0 -- 41

M-Matt Miller 9 pass from Tyler Hulse (Drew Owens kick)

M-Bentley Alsup safety

ND-Jake Miller 8 run (Kyle Stecher kick)


M-Miller 47 pass from Hulse (Owens kick)

ND-Elby Pope 28 interception (kick failed)

ND-Garret Jacobs 15 pass from Esley Thorton (Stecher kick)

ND-Pope fumble recovery (Stecher kick)

ND-Miller 5 run (Stecher kick)

M-Jordan Harper pass from Hulse (Owens kick)

ND-Miller 51 run (Stecher kick)

M-TJ Leep 3 run (run failed)


M-Harper 11 pass from Hulse (Owens kick

M-Snap out of endzone for safety


First downs 30 17

Rushes-yards 38-133 44-181

Passing yards 403 118

Comp.-Att.-Int. 40-29-6 21-11-0

Total yards 536 299

Fumbles-lost 1-1 0-0

Penalties-yards 8-70 8-36

Punts-Avg. 2-8 1-11


RUSHING: M, Hulse 8-61, Rhett Young 9-33, Shay Smithwick-Hann 6-24, Miller 4-24, Leep 10-22, Brian Flotkoetter 1-8. ND, Miller 21-155, Ryan Smith 9-40, Carson Winkles 9-27, Esley Thorton 9-27, Bruce Govig 1-0.

PASSING: M, Hulse 20-26-1 325, Smithwick-Hann 9-12-1 78, Miller 0-1-1 0. ND, Thorton 11-18-0 118, Nick Jolliffe 0-1-0 0.

RECEIVING: M, Miller 12-205, Harper 6-89, Greg Oswoord 4-56, Flotkoetter 3-36, Sam Faust 1-8, Neil Mannix 1-7, Leep 1-2, Young 1-0. ND, Smith 5-45, Jolliffe 3-49, Winkels 2-9, Jacobs 1-15.

The Dickinson Press and the Jamestown Sun are both owned by Forum Communications Co.

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