Panther defense dominates in 13-6 win

COLIN HORNING, Sports Writer

The ninth-ranked Panthers played host to the Idaho State Bengals in the UNI-Dome Saturday, defeating their Big Sky Conference opponents, 13-6, in a low-scoring, defensive slugfest to move to 2-1 on the season.

“A win is a win,” head coach Mark Farley said.  “Obviously we need to play better on offense. I thought the defense was tremendous. That’s a good win, coming off an open date. We’ve got some work to do and we need to clean some things up, but overall I feel good about where we’re at.”

The Panther defense made up for the offense’s struggles, racking up five sacks and three interceptions. Elerson Smith wreaked havoc with a career-high three sacks and nine tackles.                                  

   The game started off slow as Idaho State broke into the scoring column first with field goals in the first and second quarter.

Cedar Falls native and true freshman kicker Matthew Cook responded with a 39-yard field goal for the Panthers to go into the half at 6-3.

Both teams saw a multitude of defensive stops, 3-and-outs and sloppy play on offense, but the Panthers finally broke through with the first and only touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter.

The redshirt freshman walk-on QB Will McElvain showed his escape ability once again, evading three defenders to throw a 17-yard TD pass on the run to Isaiah Weston to put UNI up 10-6. 

The purple and gold held the lead from then on, sealing the deal with another Cook field goal to put the Panthers up 13-6.

Although the offense was a bit of a struggle for UNI, the defense was more than enough to secure the seven point victory. On top of forcing five turnovers, the Panther defense held Idaho State to only 69 total rushing yards at a bismal average of 1.8 yards per carry, resulting in giving up just six points.

“I knew it was going to be a battle,” Farley said. “There was a lot of unknowns about this team. We only had a couple game films on them, but in the end I’m still pleased.”

Up next, the Panthers will travel to Ogden, Utah, right outside of Salt Lake City, for a matchup against Weber State on Saturday, Sep. 28 at 7 p.m.