UNI Holds On To Beat No. 19 Western Illinois, 30-23
The UNI Panthers edged out Western Illinois, recording a 30-23 win over the 19th-ranked Fighting Leathernecks Saturday afternoon (Nov. 12, 2016).
UNI (5-5 overall, 4-3 MVFC) held Western Illinois to just 96 yards on the ground, the third game in the last four the Panthers have held their opponent to under 100 yards rushing. On the other side of the ball, UNI racked up 344 total yards on offense, the second game in a row for the Panthers to achieve 300-plus offensive yards.
Eli Dunne completed 19 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns against WIU, with 79 of his yards going to freshman Jalen Rima. Michael Malloy led the Panthers in rushing yards with a career-high 19 carries for 92 yards and two scores.
Duncan Ferch led the team in tackles with a career-high 11 with 10 of them being unassisted. D’Shawn Dexter, Jared Farley and A.J. Allen all turned in eight tackles each with Dexter coming away with a key fumble recovery. Turning in one of the most complete games of the year, Karter Schult finished with six tackles, three sacks and four tackles for loss, also notching his first-career blocked kick and a forced fumble.
UNI scored on its opening drive after choosing to receive to start the game. The Panthers drove down field for 78 yards on 11 plays, capped off by a two-yard rushing touchdown from Malloy. He started the drive with a 19-yard rush and had his hands on the ball for the last play of the drive to give UNI the 7-0 lead with 9:56 left in the first quarter.
The Panthers took a 13-0 lead with less than five minutes to play in the second quarter when Dunne found Logan Cunningham wide open on the outside for a nine-yard touchdown. It ended another long drive for UNI, racking up 12 plays for 50 yards and 6:35 off the clock.
UNI upped the score to 20-3 on its second half opening drive on a three-yard pass from Dunne to Daurice Fountain. The play was set up by a 51-yard catch by Rima to the Western Illinois three-yard-line, putting the Panthers on a first-and-goal situation. It ended a five-play drive for 80 yards with 11:00 left in the third quarter.
Western Illinois scored its first touchdown of the game to make it 20-9 with 3:49 left in the third quarter on a two-yard pass from Sean McGuire to Isaiah Lesure. Schult came up with a block on the PAT, officially ending the 17-play drive for 75 yards, taking 7:35 off the clock.
Malloy’s second touchdown of the game came after UNI’s second forced fumble of the fourth quarter. Rickey Neal came up with the hit on the WIU quarterback with Dexter recovering the ball on the Western Illinois 21-yard line. A few plays later, Malloy found the end zone on a six-yard rush, giving UNI a 27-9 advantage with 7:34 on the clock.
Western Illinois countered, scoring a nine-yard touchdown from McGuire to Lance Lenoir with 6:08 left to play in the game. It ended an 8-play drive for 80 yards and 1:22 off the clock, cutting UNI’s lead to 27-16.
Sam Drysdale was able to make it a 14-point game with a 21-yard field goal with 1:58 on the clock, but Western Illinois got the ball back, driving down field for 66 yards to score. The 14-yard pass from McGuire to Lesure cut the UNI lead to 30-23 with just 22 seconds left in the game.
Western Illinois tried for the onside kick, but Ferch came up with the key recovery for the Panthers, allowing the UNI offense to take a knee and eventually seal the 30-23 win.
UP NEXT: UNI returns to action for Senior Day on Saturday (Nov. 19) when the Panthers host No. 11-ranked South Dakota State at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls. The game is set to kick-off at 4 p.m.