No. 1 UNI shakes off Bears in second half, 38-17
The top-ranked University of Northern Iowa Panthers were played to a first-half tie by the Missouri State Bears but shook loose after intermission to roll to a 38-17 Gateway Football Conference win over the Bears Saturday afternoon at Plaster Field. The win kept UNI unbeaten at 9-0 and the Panthers are 5-0 in the league to assure themselves of at least a tie for the regular season GFC title plus the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. UNI closes its league slate at home next Saturday against winless Indiana State.
The Bears, averaging over 56 points a game at home this season before the contest, suffered their first Plaster Field loss of the campaign and saw an end to their five-game home win streak. MSU finished its league schedule with a 2-4 conference mark and the Bears dip to 5-5 overall. Missouri State can lock up its first winning season since 2004 with a win over non-league foe Southeast Missouri State in the season finale at Plaster next Saturday (Nov. 10). Kickoff is at 1 p.m.
UNI’s nationally-ranked defense was more effective that the Bears’ nationally-ranked offense as UNI outgained Missouri State 471-226 in the contest and 272-139 on the ground. The Bears committed three turnovers in the contest and one led to a UNI TD.
The Bears overcame a 17-10 deficit with a 78-yard, 11-play drive capped when QB Cody Kirby scored on a four-yard run 32 seconds before halftime. UNI missed a field goal on the final play of the quarter and the teams went to the locker room at intermission with a 17-17 deadlock.
UNI marched 77 yards in 12 plays with the opening kickoff of the second half and punched in a TD as QB Eric Sanders tossed a scoring pass to TE Schuylar Oordt. The Panthers then turned a deep pass interception into another TD two minutes later as Sander went in from the one. The Panthers tacked on an insurance score early in the fourth period as TB Darian Williams capped a long drive when he ran in from the three.. The Bears were unable to sustain a drive in the second half and UNI kept the ball on the ground down the stretch to lock up the win.
Missouri State was marching with the opening kickoff before losing the ball on a fumble. UNI moved from its 24 to midfield before LB Jeron Poole forced a fumble and CB Chris Farrar picked up the ball and raced 50 yards with it for the game’s first touchdown. UNI answered on a 43-yard scoring pass from QB Eric Sanders to WR Johnny Gray to tie the game. The teams swapped field goals and then touchdowns to keep the contest even at halftime.
RB Corey Lewis rambled for 167 yards against the Bears on the ground and RB Darian Williams added 90 while Sanders hit 16-of-23 passes for 199 yards. Gray was also the top receiver with six catches for 135 yards. TB Gerald Davis rushed for 74 yards for the Bears.