The No. 10 Panthers trekked out west to Fargo, N.D., for a top-ten matchup against the first-ranked and defending champion North Dakota State Bison on Saturday afternoon.
The Panthers kept it close until the Bison added to their 25-14 lead with 21 points in the fourth quarter to cap a 46-14 win over UNI.
Coming into the heavyweight bout, head coach Mark Farley knew the challenge at hand.
“It’s a task,” Farley said.
“They’re a great football team, and they went to Delaware and did a number on Delaware. When they went on the road and did the things that they did that’s what caught my eye.”
After North Dakota got out to a 15-0 start, the Panthers responded with a 17-yard touchdown strike to sophomore receiver Isaiah Weston, who had a career-high 129 receiving yards. UNI went into halftime at 18-14 after a six-yard TD run by running back Tyler Hoosman for his second TD as a Panther.
An early third quarter forced fumble set the Bison up for a 30-yard TD pass to go up 25-14. North Dakota pulled away with three rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
The Bison rushing attack added to the challenge that faced the Panthers.
“No question [that] it’ll be a tough test,” Farley said. “We’ve played well at times and […] we have defended the run well, but I think this is a whole different style of rushing attack that we’re up against this Saturday than what we’ve been up against. We’ve been up against a one back running game. This is a two back running game. This changes the structure of a lot of things.”
The Panthers weren’t able to contain the Bison as they ran for 347 yards with three running backs rushing for over 80 yards.
For the Panthers offensive, walk-on Quarterback Will McElvain threw 15-29 for 233 yards and one touchdown in his fifth 200-yard passing performance of the season. The redshirt freshman quarterback has thrown for 1,308 yards this season with one interception.
“Will [McElvain] has progressed,” Farley said. “You’ve seen him at the Iowa State game, and kind of saw him grow. We’re all seeing him grow in front of us, and he’s not playing a perfect game by any means. He’s a redshirt freshman. He’s playing a very good football game right now.”
The loss puts UNI at 3-3 this season, and 1-1 in Missouri Valley Conference play. Up next, the Panthers return to the UNI-Dome to face South Dakota on Saturday, Oct. 19 at 4 p.m. for Family Weekend.