Panthers Win Second Game in a Row, Cut Down Trees
Bend, but don't break -- common defensive philosophy for football coaches across the country. A sentiment that held true for the UNI Panthers on Saturday in their second straight victory over Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC) competition.
Northern Iowa football is once again back in the win column after defeating the Indiana State Sycamores 20-14 in the UNI-Dome.
The scoring appeared like it would start off hot for the Panthers, as they started the evening with a drive that took all of 3:41 to get in the endzone. The touchdown came on a six-yard run-option that was taken in by quarterback Theo Day.
En route to pay dirt, Day and senior running back Dom Williams ran for 51 of the 75 yards the offense traveled.
This is what Day had to say about the running he did during the contest:
It's something I feel like I'm pretty decent at, and I know when to take off and go.
Things got a little tougher after that.
On the following possession by the Sycamores, the offense went with a quarterback-by-committee offense, interchanging incumbent starter Gavin Screws with backups Cade Chambers and Evan Olaes on a drive that took the remaining 12:19 off the clock in the first quarter.
The drive came to a close after a third-down sack by Panther defensive end Devin Rice forced ISU kicker Ryan O'Grady to take the field goal at the beginning of the second quarter, making the score 7-3.
Back-to-back sacks and an interception on the following Panther possession slowed things down for the UNI offense. Rylan Cole grabbed the pick and Indiana State took over on the Panther 40.
The methodical, dink-and-dunk offense the Sycamores run went into full effect once again, moving all the way down to the Panther one-yard line before an Edwin Dearman sack pushed ISU back to the 11-yard line.
O'Grady missed the 28-yard kick to leave the score at 7-3.
The Panthers took the ball to the Sycamore 22, and settled for a 39-yard Matthew Cook field goal with 19 seconds left in the second. The drive was aided by a 28-yard pass from Day to tight end Alex Allen.
The Panthers took a 10-3 lead into the half.
An empty possession for the Sycamores to start the third resulted in the first punt of the evening for either squad, and UNI took over on their own eight-yard line.
On the first Panther drive of the half, a 15-yard targeting call that ejected Sycamore defensive end Kris Reid Jr. and a 14-yard pass from Day to Quan Hampton put the Panther offense into Indiana State territory.
Following two passing plays for first downs to Deion McShane and Sam Schnee, Allen caught his third pass of the day for an 18-yard score, extending the lead to 17-3.
This is what Day said of Allen and his four catches for 61 yards:
He's a huge target out there. He can jump and highpoint the ball and make contested catches. He's somebody who's flourished this year. ... It seems like every time the ball comes to him he makes a play.
Head Coach Mark Farley added this of Allen:
He's playing tremendous. ... He's getting critical first downs, he's getting thrown to in critical situations, and he's making plays. He's really become a good tight end.
A 31-yard pass on the next possession from Screws to MVFC Honorable Mention wideout Dante Hendrix put ISU into Panther territory. Stephen Ruiz booted a field goal in to make the lead 17-6.
A surprise onside kick by the Sycamores resulted in another offensive possession that quickly stalled for ISU, and Ruiz missed a 42-yard field goal to give the ball back to UNI with 1:18 to go in the third.
After a short five-play drive by the Panther offense, Indiana State took over once again, driving the ball from their own 21-yard line. On the 79-yard drive after the punt, Screws found wide receiver Dakota Caton on three different pass plays for 41 of those yards before red-shirt sophomore running back Dawson Basinger broke several tackles on a 19-yard score. Screws completed a pass to Justin Dinka for the two-point conversion to make the score 17-14 with 7:41 to go.
This is what senior linebacker Bryce Flater said of the Sycamore offense:
They're always looking to their coach for adjustments. ... It was all based on our alignment. ... They were good at noticing where we were and weren't at, and that's where they were trying to attack.
The following run-heavy drive by the UNI offense took nearly six minutes off the clock and moved the Panthers down to the Indiana State 18 before an incomplete pass from Day to Schnee brought it to a halt. A kick by Cook through the uprights from 35-yards out made the lead 20-14.
This is what Day said the mentality of the team was going into that final drive:
We were just going to do what we've been trying to do all season, we weren't going to switch anything up. We ran the ball and threw off of it. ... We did what we do day in and day out.
A Benny Sapp III interception with 39 seconds left sealed the deal, and the Panthers earned their first home win of the season.
UNI moves to 2-3 overall and 2-1 in MVFC play.
This is what Farley had to say following the win:
I felt the defense held its composer, stood its ground, and made the stops it needed to. It could've been easy to lose our composure on some of those fourth-down converstions -- we didn't. ... What sticks with me on offense was that last drive. They took minutes off the clock, and from start to finish I thought that was a great drive. ... I'm very pleased with our entire football team.
Next week, Illinois State will travel to Cedar Falls to face the Panthers for UNI's Homecoming game on October 8 at 4 PM.