Northern Iowa Throttles Utah Tech, Cook Moves Up in Record Books
UNI was expected to handle their recently-transitioned-to-DI opponent, Utah Tech on Saturday. They did just that and more, playing the best ball Panther fans had seen all season, trouncing the Trailblazers 41-14 at home.
UNI started the evening hot offensively following a quick three-and-out by Tech. Following two first-down runs by Dom Williams, UNI put up the first score of the evening with a 44-yard bomb from Theo Day to Sergio Morancy, making it 7-0 just 3:47 into the first quarter.
After an exchange of three punts, 11 plays, and 36 yards, Matthew Cook booted a 42-yard field goal to tie Brian Wingert for the third-most field goals made in UNI history (60) and made the lead 10-0.
Utah Tech's next possession lasted six plays and 2:16 before a pass from Boone Abbott went off the hands of his intended receiver and right into the lap of Benny Sapp III. Sapp returned the pick 21 yards.
This is what Sapp said of his third interception of the season:
That's a credit to the coaching staff and my teammates, most specifically my father (Coach Benny Sapp Jr.). He wakes up every morning and goes to the Dome and watches film to help give me and my teammates clues we can have during the game.
Sam Schnee covered 47 of the next 58 yards with a catch and run of 28 yards followed by a sensational diving grab at the Trailblazer nine for 19 yards. Williams punched it in from nine yards out for his fifth score of the season, making the lead 17-0, advantage Panthers, with 12:06 to go in the first half.
On the ensuing play after the kickoff, nickel linebacker Edwin Dearman laid out to snag his first interception of the year, putting UNI on the Blazer 26-yard-line just six seconds after the Williams score.
With a 21-yard pass to tight end Noah Abbott, the Panther offense quickly moved down to the Utah Tech one before the drive was halted, and Cook took sole possession of third all-time at UNI in field goals made (61) on a 19-yard kick. The Panther lead extended to 20-0.
Coach Farley had this to say in regard to Cook and his career at UNI:
He's deserving of that (record). He's more than a kicker to me because of what he brings to this football team. ... Perfection matters to him, and that's why he's good.
Utah Tech put together their lone scoring drive of the half after the ensuing kickoff, traveling 75 yards (15 of which came off an unnecessary roughness call) over 11 plays and capping it with an 11-yard strike from Boone Abbott to Joey Hobert to make the score 20-7.
Two more long bombs from Theo Day on the next two possession and the Panthers took a 34-7 lead into halftime. The first came with 2:41 to go and landed in the hands of Iowa transfer wideout Desmond Hutson. The second came after a three-and-out by Tech, when Day launched a 70-yard ball to Schnee who entered the endzone untouched with 1:39 remaining.
Schnee finished the game with five catches for 143 yards and the score.
This is what the Dubuque native had to say following the game:
Going into (the game), we knew we had to beat man coverage. So, if you beat your guy, we were expecting big plays. ... That was probably the longest play of my life.
Coach Mark Farley added this of Schnee's play:
He's reliable and accountable. He plays like he practices. When your quarterback trusts you, your quarterback is going to throw you the football.
After receiving the second-half kick, the UNI offense made quick work of their first drive, scoring just 4:39 into the third quarter. Two of the nine plays came from Vance McShane -- one run of ten yards and a second of 24, taking the Panther offense down to the Utah Tech one. Day pushed in for the score on a QB sneak, making the lead 41-7.
The remainder of the third quarter was run out by back-to-back empty possessions for both teams.
The final touchdown came with 10:16 to go on a 30-yard pass from Boone Abbott to Rickie Johnson on third and eight, making the final score 41-14.
Day finished the game by tying his single-game record for passing touchdowns with three and total touchdowns with four. In addition to the field goal record, Cook nailed the 100th PAT of his career, making him just the third Panther kicker to reach such a mark.
Coach Farley said what he got from his team today is exactly what he wanted:
I want (the team) to know -- because I know their talent -- I expect them to play at a higher version of themselves than even what they did today. They played about as well as they have this season as a unit. Now, they're going to have that into a bigger opponent.
Next week, the Panthers get back to Missouri Valley Football Conference play, taking on the 2-4 Missouri State Bears at home, October 22nd at 4 PM.