Panthers Fumble Season Opener, Air Force Flies Away With Win
Air Force and their famed triple-option offense ran Northern Iowa to death on Saturday, taking the victory over the 48-17 Panthers, Take one look at the box score, and you'll see it was an ugly one.
The Falcons ran for 582 yards against the UNI defense. Over 84 percent of their total 691 yards and five of their six touchdowns came on the ground.
This is what Panther Coach Mark Farley had to say about the running attack from Air Force:
All those yards are a product of the option. ... They sure as heck know how to run that system, and then they've got that quarterback to pull the trigger.
The purple and gold offense got nothing but bad breaks, to boot. A false-start by Jared Penning on the first drive of the game halted what appeared to be a score in the making, a Theo Day pass off the hands of Logan Wolf was intercepted, and a run inside the Falcon's five-yard line by Day resulted in a fumble that was recovered by Air Force.
All of those offensive mishaps came in the first half.
Following Day's fumble, the Falcons took the ball the full length of the field and scored a touchdown to make the lead 27-3 before the horn sounded. It didn't get any prettier from there.
Air Force went on to score three straight touchdowns in the second half, two of which were 70+ yard runs. Their final score of the evening made the lead 48-3 over the Panthers.
This is what Farley had to say regarding the big running plays:
They were faster than us, and you can't screw up when you're playing Air Force. ... They're a hell of a football team. They came out, they executed.
There were a few bright spots the Panthers can look to heading into their game next week against North Dakota, though.
The new-look offense seemingly did whatever it wanted in the early portions of drives. Day completed 20 of 32 passes for 286 yards and spread the ball around to a variety of receivers. Nine players caught passes, including Deion McShane who led the team in receptions with six for 106 yards.
Before the end of the contest, Day passed for two scores. The first was a ten-yard pitch and catch to Wolf, while the second was a 14-yard pass to Sergio Morancy.
The running game worked fairly well, too. Day, Vance McShane, Dom Williams, and Amauri Pesek-Hickson combined for 119 yards on 24 carries, finishing with an average of just under five yards per carry.
Williams, UNI's starting running back who led the Panthers in rushing with 47 yards, said this of the new offense:
It showed a lot of improvement from last year even though the score didn't show it. We did move the ball. ... Small mistakes slowed down our offense. Limiting or getting rid of those mistakes, I feel the game would've been different."
Coach Farley added this:
I thought we did some good things, and that's what I'll take from (today's game).
The Panthers will take on the UND Fighting Hawks next week in Grand Forks, North Dakota. This will be the first time Coach Farley has played at the Alerus Center, and the first time North Dakota and Northern Iowa have faced off since 2006 when the Fighting Hawks came to Cedar Falls and won 35-31.
UND is coming off a 38-17 loss to Nebraska.