Panthers Fall to North Dakota, Start Season 0-2
In their first Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC) matchup of the season, Northern Iowa fell to North Dakota, 29-27 on Saturday.
Though the contest certainly had its bright spots for the Panthers, the Fighting Hawks took advantage of mistake after mistake by UNI -- and the miscues continued from the game's first kick-off to the final UND drive.
After a 58-yard kick-off return by CJ Siegel, the Fighting Hawk offense took several plays to the perimeter of the UNI defense, one for 22 yards and another for 16 before a three-yard pitch and catch from quarterback Tommy Schuster to tight end Adam Zavalney. That drive took all of 1:23.
Despite the early 7-0 deficit, it appeared that UNI's offense was finally able to settle in, by way of a Matthew Cook field goal as time ran out in the first quarter, and a 41-yard touchdown run by Dom Williams, the Panthers took the lead with 5:52 to go in the 2nd quarter.
Prior to the half, UNI halted a Fighting Hawk drive at the Panther 28 before Brady Stevens missed a 45-yard field goal and the purple and gold held a 10-7 lead after two quarters. Northern Iowa had all the momentum.
The back-and-forth affair continued into the second half.
UNI received the kick to start the third quarter before yet another smooth drive was stopped in North Dakota territory and the Panthers had to settle for another Cook field goal, making it 13-7.
Then, after several short runs and passes for six or fewer yards and a 12-yard pass-interference penalty on Damien Crumitie, Schuster launched a 39-yard bomb to junior wideout Bo Belquist, and North Dakota regained the lead, going ahead 14-13.
UNI quickly returned to Fighting Hawk territory, finding themselves on their opponent's 19-yard line. After an 11-yard loss on a sack taken by quarterback Theo Day and a rare miss by Matthew Cook on a 47-yard field goal attempt, UND regained possession.
They proceeded to put yet another scoring drive together, culminating in a score by Tyler Hoosman, a grad-transfer running back from UNI. Schuster trotted in on a quarterback keeper on a two-point try to make the score 22-13.
The Panthers never saw the lead again.
Despite another long touchdown run of 47-yards by Williams with 13:06 left to make it 22-20 after a Cook PAT and a three-and-out drive by UND on the next possession, UNI just couldn't get back in it. Day was intercepted three plays later and Schuster ran for another score to make it 29-20.
UNI didn't go gently into that good North Dakota evening though, as Day connected with Deion McShane for a 72-yard touchdown with 6:51 remaining. The score was 29-27 after another Cook PAT.
Four first downs later the clock read zero, and North Dakota took home their first victory of the 2022 season, extending their record home-opener win streak to 36 games.
UNI's inability to capitalize on long offensive drives and missed assignments on the defensive end took the wind out of their own sales in Grand Forks. Now, the Panthers enter their first game in the UNI-Dome next week against No. 7 Sacramento State without a win. The remainder of the schedule includes MVFC opponents and FCS juggernauts No. 5 Missouri State, No. 17 Southern Illinois, and No. 2 South Dakota State.
Northern Iowa has a hole to dig themselves out of if they want to finish 2022 with a winning record and make the FCS Playoffs -- and it won't be easy.