Cedar Falls- The University of Northern Iowa (1-3) hosted Indiana St (1-4) in Missouri Valley Football Conference match up on Saturday. The Panthers came into looking to build on a 52-17 win last week against Western Illinois. They did just that, knocking off the Sycamores 20-14.
The opening quarter was a quick one with both teams having just one possession. UNI cracked the egg on the scoreboard first as they took their opening possession 75 yards and capped it with a six yard Theo Day touchdown run. As expected, Indiana St. did fold up the awning as they converted two 4th and 1 plays, as well as a 3rd and 12 to keep their opening drive going. The Sycamores initially scored on a 3rd and goal play from the five yard line, but an illegal shift took the 6 off the board and back them up to the ten yard line. The Panthers rallied for a sack by Devin Rice and Indiana St. was forced to kick a 32 yard field goal.
Northern Iowa’s second possession was making fast work down the field until back to back ISU sacks two the Panthers back to the near midfield and they faced a 3rd down and 31 yards to go. That was followed up by a Rylan Cole interception for Indiana St. He returned it back to the UNI 40 yard line. The Panther defense struggled get off the field throughout the first half as they gave up a number of third and fourth down plays to the Sycamores. While stout in the early downs, the Sycamores were able to find ways to convert on big downs to extend drives. Where UNI was strong, however, was in their red zone defense. UNI was able to stiffen up on both of ISU’s first half possessions to limit the Sycamores to two field goal attempts, of which Indiana St. kicker Ryan O’Grady was only able to convert one. The Panthers offense was able to drive from their own 20 yards line to the Indiana St 21 yard line before having to kick a field goal of their own. Kicker Matthew Cook was able to knock a 39 yarder through to make the halftime score 10-3 in favor of the home team.
Indiana St started with the ball in the second half and wasted no time in getting their offense moving. They struck for a 32 yard pass on the first play putting them at the UNI 43 yard line. However, the Panther defense was able to make their first stop on third and long, sacking QB Cade Chambers for a four yard loss and forced a punt. The Northern Iowa offense wasted no time in putting together a nine play, 92 yard scoring drive capped by a Theo Day to Alex Allen 18 yard touchdown pass to make the score 17-3. Indiana St added a field goal from kicker Stephen Ruiz, and followed that up with a surprise onside kick and recovery. That set the Sycamores up at their own 48 yard line with just over four minutes to play in the third quarter. Their offense immediately went to work ripping off a 34 yard run to the UNI 28. Three plays later they were in the UNI red zone, and looking to tack on points. A holding penalty on second down, followed up by stout Panther defensive play limited the Sycamores to a field goal attempt, which Ruiz pushed wide to the right. The third quarter came to an end with Northern Iowa leading 17-6.
Indiana St found their offensive footing in the fourth quarter as they were able to turn their first fourth quarter possession into 8 points on a 20 yard touchdown run by Dawson Basinger and a successful two point conversion. This cut the Panther lead to three at 17-14. The Panther offense was able to drive about five minutes off of the clock on the ensuing possession, ending with a Matthew Cook field goal to give the Panthers a 20-14 edge. Indiana St started the final drive with 1:44 on the clock and had to go 75 yards to score a game tying touchdown. The Panthers defense, was able to force a 4th down and nine from the ISU 26 yard line, but the Sycamores were able to find enough yardage for the first down. There was question whether their QB was across the line of scrimmage, but the play stood. The Panthers defense was able to muscle up, however, and slammed the door closed on a 4th and 13 play in which Benny Sapp III intercepted Sycamore QB Gavin Screws to seal the deal. A UNI kneel down finished the game with a 20-14 Northern Iowa win.
One of the story lines that played out was three targeting calls against Indiana St. The first resulted in the disqualification of defensive lineman Kris Reid Jr. Replay reviews vindicated the potential offender in the second two calls, but the question remains, what is the correct application of the targeting rule in college football?
The UNI offense finished the game with 23 first downs, and 322 yards of total offense. Theo Day finished the day 14/24 with 180 yards passing. He threw for a touchdown and an interception. Head coach Mark Farley said of Day, “I think the thing Theo needed was confidence and we’re starting to see that now. He played really well today and he keeps getting better.” Defensively, Crestwood graduate Spencer Cuvelier finished the game with a team leading 11 tackles. The Panthers complete game one in a four game home stand. They will be back in action next Saturday in the UNI-Dome for their homecoming game against Illinois State.