Northern Iowa's Xavier Williams, left, and Jordan Gacke, right, force McNeese State's Cody Stroud to rush a pass in the first half. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Saturday, September 28, 2013 9:49 PM
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — McNeese State’s climb back into the Football Championship Subdivision’s elite was met with a swift fist to the face from Northern Iowa. And then a toss down the stairs for good measure.
The No. 5 Panthers dominated every phase of a battle between top-10 teams, blasting the No. 9 Cowboys 41-6 in front of 12,325 at the UNI-Dome on Saturday evening.
“Give Northern Iowa a lot of credit. They outplayed us in every phase of the game,” said McNeese head coach Matt Viator. “Obviously they made a lot of great plays and we didn’t. And a lot of that’s due to them.”
Northern Iowa (4-0) went in ranked eighth nationally in scoring defense. That unit lived to its billing, forcing three turnovers and allowing 280 total yards, 230 below McNeese’s average during their first four games.
UNI proved it also has an offense to match.
The Panthers racked up 466 yards off offense, led by 194 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns from Walter Payton Award hopeful David Johnson.
Though Johnson was a known quantity going in, UNI’s receiving corps stole the show. The Panthers made multiple circus catches to keep the McNeese defense continually frustrated.
“We knew their running back and quarterback were good, but the receivers made a lot of plays,” Viator said. “Not that we didn’t think they were capable. But when you run the football like they can, and they’re making plays down the field with their wideouts, that’s tough to cover.”
Kevin Vereen had four catches for 109 yards, two of which were made with one hand. Chad Owens added five grabs for 60 yards and a touchdown.
UNI quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen finished 16 of 27 for 288 yards. Kollmorgen added a 1-yard touchdown run to go with his three scoring passes.
The Cowboys (4-1) crossed the 50-yard line one time in the first half, and that was on their first possession. McNeese started five first-half drives inside of its 25-yard line.
“We didn’t have any field position whatsoever,” Viator said. “I probably didn’t take enough chances just trying to punch it out. We didn’t get into a good rhythm.”
UNI led 24-0 before McNeese got on the board on a 6-yard pass from Cody Stroud to Marcus Wiltz midway through the third quarter. The 2-point conversion attempt failed when Ernest Celestie was pulled down in the back of the end zone on a tipped ball, which negated pass interference.
Despite the humbling nature of the loss, Viator told his team that the goal of winning the Southland Conference title remains on the table.
“It’s one loss,” Viator said. “We have some goals, and this game didn’t have anything to do with any of them. Our goal is to win the conference and to make the playoffs. This game doesn’t really have anything to do with what we’re trying to accomplish. But we’re going to have to play better than this.”
The Cowboys have one week to find out if they are up to that task with 13th-ranked Central Arkansas lying in wait in Conway, Ark., for the conference opener.
“The one positive is I didn’t see a bunch of injuries,” Viator said. “We just have to go back to the drawing board and see where we can get better. If we won or lost, we’d have to win this upcoming week at Conway.”
Posted By: stewart orvik On: 9/28/2013
And today NDSU, winners at Kans. St earlier this season, limited SDSU, a team that rushed for around 250 yds vs Nebraska to -37 yds. How good are these teams from the MVC? Next week UNI takes on NDSU, that ought to be a great game.