First-half mistakes were too costly for the UNI Panthers to overcome in a 42-24 season-opening loss to the Iowa State Cyclones in Ames Saturday night (Sept. 2, 2017).

Playing in front of a hostile crowd of 61,500 at Jack Trice Stadium, UNI (0-1) took an early 7-0 lead. The Panthers started the game with an eight-play, 75-yard drive scoring that ended with Eli Dunne's 18-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Weston at the 11:02 mark of the first quarter. Sam Drysdale kicked the extra point.

Turnovers, however, soon shifted the momentum in Iowa State's favor.

The Cyclones (1-0) intercepted Dunne twice in the first quarter, and returned both picks for a touchdown. The initial takeaway on UNI's second possession was a 12-yard return by Willie Harvey with 8:04 remaining. Then, with 1:08 left, Kamari Cotton-Moya returned the second interception 22-yards to put the Cyclones ahead 14-7 with the extra point kicks.

“We made too many mistakes in the first half of the football game,” head coach Mark Farley said. “We couldn’t overcome that, but this is a type of game you have to have to mature and grow. I was watching our guys in the fourth quarter and I was very pleased with how they finished the game. Overall, I’m proud of the effort our guys showed tonight.”

Despite the lead, Iowa State had just 79 yards of offense through the first 19 minutes of the game. After the second pick six, the Cyclones scored on four of their next five possessions and never allowed UNI to regain the lead.

Iowa State owned a 21-10 advantage at halftime, following David Montgomery's eight-yard touchdown run and Garrett Owens' point-after kick with 2:27 remaining in the second quarter. The margin could have been closer for UNI, Drysdale missed a 49-yard field goal just before intermission.

UNI Panthers and ISU Cyclones
UNI Panthers - ISU Cyclones

The Cyclones increased their lead to 35-10 on Jacob Park's nine-yard touchdown toss to Marchie Murdock midway through the third quarter. The Panthers responded with a nine-play, 52-yard scoring drive that was ended with Dunne's 18-yard scoring pass to Jaylin James that narrowed the ISU's lead to 35-17 at the 1:36 mark.

Each team scored touchdowns and added the extra-point kicks in the fourth quarter to set the final score at 42-24.

“We drove the field on ISU, systematically we made plays on the ground and in the air and we felt pretty good,” Farley said. “We stopped them for most of the first half, but the interceptions hurt because they were for touchdowns.”

Iowa State ended the game with a 405-to-378 advantage in total offensive yards. The teams were nearly even in all other statistical categories.

The Panthers ended the night with 119 yards rushing and 259 passing. Dunne accounted for all of the aerial yards after going 23-for-38 with three touchdowns and three interceptions in Saturday’s opener. Three different receivers caught touchdown passes for UNI as Weston (four catches, 72 yards), James (three catches, 44 yards) and Aaron Graham (two catches, 24 yards) all had scores.

On the defensive side, Jared Farley led the Panthers with 14 tackles. Duncan Ferch finished the game with nine stops and an interception.

Park, Iowa State's quarterback, threw for 271 yards while completing 27-of-35 passes with two touchdowns and one interception. Allen Lazard was the Cyclones' top receiver, catching eight balls for 108 yards.

UP NEXT: Iowa State hosts Iowa (1-0) in the annual Cy-Hawk game at 11 a.m. Saturday (Sept. 9) in Ames, and UNI opens its home schedule with a 4 p.m. game against Cal-Poly (0-2) at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls. The Iowa-Iowa State will be televised by ESPN or ESPN2. UNI's game will be televised by the Panther Sports Network and ESPN3.

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