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GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Brad Sorensen threw for 363 yards to break Southern Utah's all-time yards gained record, but it wasn't enough to stop North Dakota in a 33-29 loss Saturday afternoon in Grand Forks, N.D.
Down by four with less than a minute to go, Sorensen fumbled on third down deep in UND territory and UND recovered with 52 seconds left. The Thunderbirds had systematically and methodically moved the ball downfield from their own 26-yard line in little more than six minutes before the fumble.
After forcing a quick three-and-out, SUU failed to go 92 yards in 25 seconds to comeback and win. Sorensen's 48-yard hail mary attempt at the end of the game fell incomplete in the end zone and SUU lost one week after one of its biggest wins in school history.
In addition to his 363 yards, Sorensen threw for two touchdowns and tied his personal best for touchdown passes in a season (21). Brian Wilson added a career-high 156 yards and a touchdown on the ground and Fatu Moala caught five passes for 166 yards and another touchdown.
Sorensen needed just 308 total yards entering his final two games to break Matt Cannon's SUU school record of 8,930 yards of total offense in a career. Sorensen now has 8.975 total yards of offense in his three-year T-Bird career. He also became SUU's first quarterback to throw for more than 9,000 yards in his career with his 363-yard game.
SUU (4-6, 3-4 Big Sky) gained 520 total yards of offense in the loss and outgained UND's offense by more than 200 yards, but it still wasn't enough in the close loss.
The T-Birds also opened the game rather auspiciously, taking a 3-0 lead with 7:07 left in the first quarter on a 35-yard Colton Cook field goal. Cook originally missed a 40-yard attempt, but an offside penalty negated the missed attempt and allowed Cook a second chance, which he hit.
SUU then padded on to its lead when Sorensen hit Moala with a 32-yard touchdown strike. Cook missed the extra point, and SUU led UND 9-0 early in the second quarter.
Following a three-and-out stop by SUU's defense, a 63-yard pass from Sorensen to Moala then set up a 5-yard touchdown run by Wilson on the next play to give the T-Birds a 15-0 lead with 9:38 left in the second quarter.
SUU attempted a 2-point conversion to regain the points lost on the previous missed extra point, but failed to convert.
However, that's when UND woke up.
Greg Hardin took the ensuing kick off 100 yards to the house, cutting the T-Birds' lead to 15-7.
After halting SUU's offense, UND then cut into SUU's lead further on a short Mitch Sutton touchdown run just before halftime. UND missed its extra point on a muffed snap, and was content with heading into halftime down 15-13.
However, Sorensen found Easton Pedersen for 64 yards with 36 seconds left on a third down pass that set up a 4-yard Myles Crawford-Harris touchdown run, giving SUU a 22-13 halftime lead.
UND (5-6, 3-4 Big Sky) then took advantage of more T-Bird miscues in the third quarter. Originally forced to punt, a roughing the punter penalty on SUU kept UND's opening half drive alive, which it capped off with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Bradon Hanson to Ethan Magstadt with 8:22 left in the third quarter.
UND then took its first lead of the game on its next drive, which was capped with a 5-yard Sutton touchdown run at the 2:43 mark of the third quarter, giving UND a 26-22 lead.
SUU then responded in the fourth quarter, as Sorensen capped off an 11-play, 87-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Henna Brown with 11:30 left in regulation.
But UND answered.
Jake Miller caught a short screen, broke a tackle and went 36 yards for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown with 10:01 left in the game. The drive was aided by several SUU penalties, including a personal foul on J.T. Anderson.
Despite a good-looking drive near the end of regulation by SUU, the fumble with 52 seconds left killed any chance the T-Birds had at coming back in the game.
With the loss, SUU cannot finish the season with a winning record. It will, however, have a chance at spoiling Northern Arizona's ambitions of a Big Sky Conference championship next week in Flagstaff, Ariz.
Kickoff against the Lumberjacks is slated for 2:05 p.m. in Flagstaff.