Panthers destroy Coyotes, 58-14



Sergio Morancy (82) had a standout game for the Panthers, catching four passes for 135 yards and a touchdown in the 58-14 victory.

BEN LAHART , Sports Writer

The UNI Panthers ended their regular season on the highest of high notes with a dominant 58-14 win over South Dakota. All three pieces of the team excelled in the blowout victory two Saturdays ago.

The defense started the game with a quick three-and-out to give UNI the ball. Theo Day then led a seven-play, 95-yard drive highlighted by a 62-yard completion to Sergio Morancy. The drive was topped off with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Layne Pryor. The offense quickly got the ball back after another three-and-out by the defense. Four plays and 62 yards later, Day found Morancy in the endzone from 36 yards out to put the Panthers up 14 just over halfway through the first quarter. 

Another quick stop by the defense, and the offense had the ball back again. This five-play, 69-yard drive was highlighted by a 35-yard touchdown pass to Sam Schnee during which he maneuvered through and around seven different South Dakota defenders. Three plays and a punt once again gave Day and the offense another chance to score as the first quarter wound down. After three plays of 20 or more yards, the Panthers found themselves on the 3-yard line where Day kept the ball himself and ran in for the fourth touchdown of the day. 

The defense didn’t need to force a punt to get the ball back, as Woo Governor intercepted a pass in the middle of the field to give UNI great field position. Two plays later and the Panthers were already back in the endzone with an 18-yard touchdown run from Vance McShane. The defense didn’t take the field before the offense had the ball again as a fumble was forced on the ensuing kickoff return and was recovered by Cameron Baker. Two plays later, Day connected with Quan Hampton for the 11-yard touchdown to put UNI up 42-0.

A three-and-out by the defense gave UNI the ball for their seventh possession. Here they had a three-and-out of their own. South Dakota used the momentum from UNI’s first punt to fuel their first scoring drive ending in a passing touchdown from eight yards out. The Panthers executed a perfectly timed drive to end the half as Day threw his fifth touchdown pass of the day to Noah Abbott with 11 seconds on the clock. 

The second half did not prove to be nearly as exciting on the offensive side of the ball as the first. However, UNI still put together a nine-play, 66-yard drive ending in a 26-yard field goal from Matthew Cook to start the half. Another three-and-out gave UNI the ball back again leading to another Cook field goal, this time from 36 yards. After a failed fourth down, the Panther offense had the ball once again, leading to a third straight field goal from Cook. A final touchdown drive from the Coyotes ended the scoring and essentially ended the game as UNI eventually ran out the remainder of the clock, winning by a final score of 58-14.

This was UNI’s best offensive performance of the year with season highs in both yards, 593, and points, 58. The offense also posted its highest yards per carry with nearly 5.5 yards. Day saw season and career highs in passing yards with 380, and total touchdowns with six, five passing and one rushing. This performance grabbed conference and national attention as he earned MVFC Co-Offensive Player of the Week and FCS National Performer of the Week. 

Governor’s second quarter interception marked his fourth of the year tying him with Benny Sapp III for the team lead. The UNI defense did not allow a single third down conversion in the game and only allowed two out of an attempted four fourth down conversions. 

Cook capped off his stellar season making all 10 kicks including his record setting field goals. His first field goal of the game set the MVFC and UNI records for career field goals made with 67, passing former Panther Billy Hallgren. He also moved solely into second place in consecutive PATs made with 124 while remaining perfect in his career.

With the release of the FCS Playoffs bracket last week not featuring UNI, the season has officially come to an end. After a slow 2-4 start in 2022, UNI will look to carry some of their late season momentum into the 2023 campaign.