Northern Iowa’s football team used a hot start in the first quarter to power them to a 41-20 win over the Bears of Missouri State to close out a four game homestand. The Panthers moved to 4-4 on the season with the win while the Bears falls to 2-5.
Northern Iowa used a little special teams strategy with a short, high kick, to open the game. It was misplayed by the Bears and rolled inside their five yard line before being scooped up and the Panther kick coverage converged for a tackle at the Bears’ one yard line. Three plays later Stefan Black intercepted a pass at the Missouri State ten yard line, setting up a touchdown run on the first Panther offensive play by Dom Williams. After stout defense and another punt UNI was able to drive down the field and finished with Dom Williams scoring a second touchdown run, this time a one yard drive.
Things slowed a bit in the second quarter until UNI QB Theo Day was able to find Logan Wolf for a first down to jump start the drive. They were able to overcome a holding that created a first and 20 situation to cross midfield and keep the drive alive. It was then a Sam Schnee throwback pass to tight end Noah Abbott that set the Panthers up in goal to go yardage at the Missouri State nine yard line. Northern Iowa had a few chances to punch it in, but ultimately settled for a Matthew Cook 25 yard field goal to make the score 17-0 halfway through the second quarter. Missouri State did not lay down, however, as the Bears drove right back down the field in about four minutes and cracked the egg on their side of the scoreboard with a 15 yard touchdown pass from Jason Shelly Naveon Mitchell. Northern Iowa was able to get big gains from Logan Wolf and Vance McShane on the ensuing drive to work their way across midfield in an attempt to answer. Theo Day then beat a blitz right up the gut and found Alex Allen for a huge third down conversation. The Panthers capped the drive with a touchdown pass to a crossing Sergio Morancy. The 24-7 score was direct reflection of the total offensive output of each team. Northern Iowa gained 278 yards of total offense in the first half, while Missouri State managed all of 83 yards in the first half.
Out of the halftime break Missouri State found a bit of a spark. After forcing a three and out the Bears Naveon Mitchell returned the punt 38 yards to the UNI 19 yard line. The Bears converted the short field into points as fullback Trae Thompson plunged into the endzone from the one yard line to make the score 24-14 Northern Iowa. However, the UNI offense would not be denied. Even after a huge holding penalty that backed the Panthers back up into their own territory, Day found Wolf for another huge gainer to the Missouri State ten yard line. Schnee got the Panthers to the two yard line with his catch on the next play, and Dom Williams toted the rock for his third touchdown of the day to make the score 31-14 with 7:49 to play in the third quarter. Missouri State took the ensuing possession right back down the field and were set up in the redzone before Bears quarterback Jason Shelley was nailed hard in the pocket and fumbled the ball. The Panthers’s Spencer Cuvelier pounced on it at the 15 yard line.
The fourth quarter opened with the fourth touchdown run by Dom Williams, this time from seven yards out to make the score 38-14. Missouri State answered with a long drive and capped it with a touchdown run from Jacardia Wright from the six yard line. Missouri State went for two and came up short. The score was 38-20 when UNI came back onto the field with nine minutes left of the clock and looking to drive out the rest of the time. The Panthers were able to roll about half the time off the clock before settling for a Cook 34 yard field goal to extend the lead to 41-20 with 4:22 left to play. That field goal by Cook put him in second place on the all-time list for field goals made at UNI and in Missouri Valley Football Conference history.
Northern Iowa finished the game with 512 yards of total offense, with 321 of those yards coming through the air. The Panthers will travel to Carbondale, Illinois next Saturday for a date with the Southern Illinois Salukis.