UNI blazes through Leathernecks

UNI+defense+back+Benny+Sapp+III+looks+to+the+sidelines+before+a+play+in+the+Panther%27s+game+against+Illinois+State.+

TONI FORTMANN

UNI defense back Benny Sapp III looks to the sidelines before a play in the Panther’s game against Illinois State.

COLIN HORNING, Sports Editor

The UNI football team looked to return to the win column this past Saturday when they faced off against Western Illinois in Macomb, Ill. Coming in at 2-3 on the season and following last week’s 13-6 defeat at the hands of Missouri State, the Panthers were matched up with the struggling Leathernecks.

WIU came into the game winless on the season with an 0-4 record and had been having a tough time getting their rhythm together all season long. The Panthers proved to be too much for their Missouri Valley Conference opponents, as they never trailed in the game en route to the 34-20 victory.

The game started about as well as it could for UNI, as wide receiver Isaiah Weston took the first play from scrimmage to the house off a 75-yard touchdown pass from Panther quarterback Justin Fomby. Fomby, who struggled in his first start last week replacing starter Will McElvain (who was out for the two games due to COVID-19 protocols) looked much more relaxed and engaged in his second career start.

The Leathernecks knotted up the score at the start of the second quarter following a 10-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Connor Sampson to wide receiver Daniel Bender. The game remained tied for much of the duration of the second quarter, when the Panthers cashed in two quick scores. Following a 28-yard field goal from UNI kicker Matthew Cook which put the Panthers up 10-7, WIU received the ball back with about 30 seconds remaining in the half. Attempting a long, 62-yard field goal right before the half, UNI’s Omar Brown blocked the kick and ran it back to the house to give UNI a 17-7 lead heading into the locker room at halftime.

Northern Iowa remained in control for the second half. Running back Tyler Hoosman ran for two touchdowns (one in the third quarter and one in the fourth) while the UNI defense kept the Leathernecks out of the endzone until the final minute when the game was out of hand and only allowed two field goals. The stifling defensive effort was key for UNI as they sealed the game with a 34-20 win.

Despite allowing 355 passing yards to Western Illinois quarterback Connor Sampson, UNI was able to keep their opponents in check with a strong red zone defense. They held WIU to three field goals and two touchdowns, with one of the scores being in the final minute after the game was basically decided. Riley Van Wyhe and Spencer Cuvelier had 11 and 10 tackles, respectively, to lead the UNI defense.

Fomby looked much better for the Panthers in his second career start. He went 15-23 for 218 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. Hoosman ran for 84 yards and two touchdowns, while running back Dom Williams ran for another 71 yards to help pace the Panther offense.

With the win, the Panthers even up their record at 3-3 overall and in MVFC play, while WIU drops to 0-5 overall and in the conference. Up next, UNI will head to the Dakota Dome in Vermillion, S.D. for a matchup with the South Dakota Coyotes on Friday, April 2. Their next home game will also be the final regular season game of the year on April 10, when UNI hosts North Dakota State.