Panthers fall to top ranked North Dakota State

WIlLIAM RIEPE, Sports Writer

The Panthers traveled to Fargo, North Dakota this weekend to take on the undefeated North Dakota State Bison. The Bison have enjoyed a perfect season without a single loss, while blowing out some opposing teams by 50+ points. The Panthers fought hard and kept the yard totals close, even taking the lead early.

However, this was a game of turnovers, and the Panthers could not keep hold of the ball on Saturday. They fumbled three times, and quarterback Eli Dunne threw two interceptions. The Panthers fell 14-30.

The Panthers failed to stop a powerful Bison run game, allowing their three running backs to scamper for 186 yards and two touchdowns, but held quarterback Easton Stick to 136 yards and picked him off twice.

Defensive back Elijah Campbell is credited with the two interceptions and added four tackles on the day. Linebacker Jared Farley was at the top of tackle totals. After two weeks of absence, he grabbed 12 tackles, one sack and a tackle for loss.

Daurice Fountain shined on offense for the seventh straight week, snagging five passes for 43 yards and two touchdowns. This continues his reign of at least a touchdown or 100+ yards in seven straight games, cementing his status as a topthree receiver in the conference.

The Panthers’ offense enjoyed little success against a stout Bison defense, being held to around 200 total yardage. The UNI offensive line also struggled to handle the pass rush of North Dakota State, yielding six sacks and four hits, limiting Dunne’s decision-making time. Since the return of running back Marcus Weymiller, Dunne’s activity has slowed down, only attempting 22 passes with him completing 14 of them.

Dunne struggled early this year with risky passes, and this week was no different. UNI gave up the early lead with a pick six in the second quarter. From there, they struggled to get anything going on offense. UNI gave up over 18 points in the second half, only scoring seven. Dunne remains one of the best quarterbacks in the conference when he controls his turnovers. He supplies the Panther offense with a constant threat.

All things considered, the performance by the Panthers against a top team like North Dakota State shows progress towards what could be a great end to the season. Marcus Weymiller has dominated on the ground in his three games back. Dunne has cut his turnover count and is enjoying high competition rates and yards per game. The Panther defense has been holding teams to few yards, and is putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Next week, the Panthers host the South Dakota Coyotes. Three top defensive players for the Coyotes have been held out of competing due to violation of team rules but still managed to blow out Southern Illinois by 42 points last week.

They are currently sitting at a 7-1 record and will prove to be a great challenge to the Panthers. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at the UNI-Dome.