Northern Iowa Football Starts 0-3 For First Time Since 1969
In a tale of two halves and a 37-21 defeat at the hands of No. 8 Sacramento State, Northern Iowa football has started the season 0-3 for the first time since 1969.
In what's been a common sentiment at the beginning of this 2022 season, it's largely due to -- or lack thereof -- the Panther defense. Behind a barrage of missed tackles, the Hornets achieved first down after first down, and score after score. Particularly in the first half.
The Hornets offense was unstoppable, scoring on all but one possession over the first 30 minutes. It started with a 68-yard drive that was capped by a designed QB run up the middle for three yards and a touchdown by Asher O'Hara.
Coach Mark Farley had this to say regarding the Hornets ability to run the ball:
We need to make a tackle. There's no way (we should allow them to break tackles). There are a lot of things that go into tackles, one of them is heart.
The Panthers answered back on the following possession behind two big catches on behalf of tight end Alex Allen. His first put UNI in the Sac. State red zone and his second was the first touchdown catch of his career, tying the score at seven.
This is what Allen had to say regarding the first touchdown of his collegiate career:
That was really exciting. I've been here for five years. Had to get the first one out of the way. Hopefully, there's more to come.
He'd finish the day with four catches for fifty yards.
The remainder of the first two quarters was all Hornets. Jake Dunniway found tight end Marshel Martin wide open for a 21-yard score to end a seven-play 75-yard drive. After a quick three-and-out, Sacramento State took over at the Panther 48-yard line. 2:36 and another three-yard run by Ohara later, and the lead was 21-7.
Team captain and preseason All-American Spencer Cuvelier added this of the team's defense:
We were lacking in fundamentals. ... That's inexcusable, myself included. We just didn't play behind our pads today.
Before the end of the first half, Kyle Sentkowski banged home a 29-yard field goal and the lead ballooned to 24-7.
In that first half, the Panthers missed on opportunities to score three times, as Matthew Cook missed a 30-yard field goal, Quan Hampton fumbled after a 14-yard catch, and Theo Day fumbled in Hornets territory with 58 ticks to go before the half.
The final two quarters were much more fun. Until it wasn't.
The first possession for the Panthers resulted in an incredible snag by Logan Wolf for a 24-yard score -- the second of the season for the Cedar Falls native.
The following drive by Sacramento State resulted in a punt, and Day immediately took advantage with a 25-yard strike to receiver Sam Schnee. A few plays later and Vance McShane punched the ball in for a 4-yard score that made it 27-21.
Another three-and-out by the Hornet offense gave the Panthers the ball with 13:40 to go in the fourth and the chance to take their first lead of the contest. As much of the season has gone thus far, the opportunity was squandered.
After a punt by redshirt freshman Cael Loecher, O'Hara and Skattebo ran the ball from their own 14 to the UNI 20, taking six and a half minutes off the clock and taking the energy out of the UNI-Dome with a 38-yard field goal to make it a two-possession game, 30-21.
In total, O'Hara and Skattebo ran the ball 30 times for 176 yards. O'Hara scored three touchdowns on the ground.
Then, after two passes from Day to Deion McShane and Wolf that resulted in 52 yards gained, the nail was driven into the Panthers' metaphorical coffin. Day threw a pick that was returned to the UNI 18. Following a garbage-time touchdown by the Hornets, that was all she wrote. Sacramento State took the victory, 37-21.
Day finished 20-36 for 270 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception.
As to how UNI bounced back and returns to the win column, this is what Farley had to say:
You've got to keep your composure and get better. ... We could've won that game. Somebody has to take he bull by the horns here.
The Panthers will take on Western Illinois in Macomb next Saturday at 3 PM. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.