Panthers fall short to ND, 29-27



Matthew Cook (97) attempts a field goal during UNI’s 29-27 loss to North Dakota.

DREW HILL, Opinion Columnist

The UNI Panthers went on the road for the second week in a row, facing the North Dakota Fighting Hawks. UNI finished last season 6-6 overall and 4-4 in conference play while also reaching the FCS playoffs. North Dakota finished 5-6 overall and 3-5 in conference. This was the first Missouri Valley Football Conference game for both teams. Both lost games against FBS foes in the previous week, with UNI falling to Air Force and North Dakota losing to Nebraska. It looked to be a tight game coming in, and the gameplay did not disappoint.

UNI kicked it off, and the game began with a bang. North Dakota returned the ball 58 yards to the UNI 41. They fumbled it but were able to recover the ball. North Dakota’s offense had no trouble kicking in, reaching the end zone in just four plays and less than a minute and a half. The teams traded punts, and then UNI made their first extended drive. On a 13 play, 6:17 drive that began at their own 10, UNI marched up the field, highlighted by a 26-yard pass from Theo Day to Sam Schnee. They were stopped short, however, and preseason FCS All-American kicker Matthew Cook put UNI on the board with a 22-yard field goal, leaving the Fighting Hawks in front 7-3.

North Dakota answered with a drive of their own. The Fighting Hawks got to the 30-yard line of UNI, but then Woo Governor picked them off for the Panthers’ first interception of the day. UNI began slowly on the drive from their own 32, but then Dom Williams broke off a 41-yard touchdown run to put the Panthers on top 10-7. North Dakota took one more drive in the first half, but missed a 45-yard field goal as the clock struck zeros, leaving UNI in front at 10-7.

UNI started strong in the second half, driving all the way to the North Dakota 4-yard line, highlighted by a 29-yard pass to Quan Hampton and a 16-yard pass to Desmond Hutson. However, Day was sacked for an 8-yard loss on second-and-goal, and after an incomplete pass, Cook kicked in another field goal from the 12 to extend the lead to 13-7. Schuster responded with a 39-yard touchdown pass to put the Fighting Hawks back in front 14-13.

Day threw for a couple of chunk plays with a 34-yard pass to Schnee and a 33-yard pass to Deion McShane. However, the drive stalled out again after Day was sacked back to the North Dakota 30 on third down. Cook came on to try to give UNI back the lead, but he missed the 47-yard field goal, leaving the score at 14-13.

North Dakota took the rest of the third quarter, but on the first play of the fourth quarter, former UNI running back Tyler Hoosman scored on a touchdown run. Schuster added a two-point conversion, and the Fighting Hawks led 22-13. The Panthers responded quickly as Williams broke out for another long touchdown run, this time for 47 yards. UNI was back within two at 22-20.

The defense held strong and forced a 3-and-out and a punt. However, just three plays into their next drive, Day threw an interception that gave North Dakota the ball. Hoosman took the ball down to the UNI six on a 44-yard run, and Schuster ran it in to again extend the lead to nine at 29-20. Day then hit McShane for a huge 72-yard touchdown pass to draw back within two at 29-27 with 6:51 to go in the game. That was the last time UNI touched the ball, as North Dakota went on a time-consuming drive that drained the clock. UNI forced North Dakota to a third-and-ten, but Schuster converted the first down with a 24-yard pass that allowed North Dakota to kneel out the game.

Day finished with 334 yards on 20 for 27 passing with a touchdown and interception. Williams led the ground game with 103 yards and two touchdowns. McShane led UNI in receiving with six catches for 157 yards and a touchdown. Shuster finished with 275 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception on 20 for 23 passing. Former Panther Hoosman led the rushing attack with 107 yards and a touchdown.

UNI’s next game is in the UNI-Dome on Sept. 17 at 4 p.m. They will face Sacramento State as they look to pick up their first win of the season.