UNI throttles South Dakota 66-7 - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UNI throttles South Dakota 66-7

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CEDAR FALLS (UNI Sports Info) -- The fourth-ranked University of Northern Iowa football team nearly eclipsed a 29-year old record for total offense on its way to a 66-7 victory over the University of South Dakota. 

A crowd of 12,688 witnessed the Panther offense gain 712 yards in the game, just 14 yards short of the 726 yards put up by the Panthers against Evansville in 1980. In total, the Panthers ran 64 plays for 712 yards, gaining 30 first downs in the process and averaging a robust 11.1 yards per play. The Panther defense held the Coyotes to 315 yards and forced 5 turnovers.

Senior quarterback Pat Grace led the Panther offensive attack, completing 24-of-32 passes for 445 yards and four touchdowns. Grace came up 12 yards shy of the UNI-Dome record for passing yards, a mark set by Illinois State's Kevin Glenn in 1998. Grace also carried the ball five times for a total of 32 yards and three rushing touchdowns. Sophomore Zach Davis took over for the majority of the second half, completing both of his attempts for 33 yards.

Senior wide receiver D.P. Eyman had a career-best game with nine receptions for 197 yards, primarily seeing first-half action. Eyman made clutch plays repeatedly for the Panthers in the first half, taking a wide receiver screen for 30 yards and making a 29-yard reception on 3rd and 15 in the first quarter. Sophomore Jarred Herring added 129 yards receiving on five catches.

Matt Strathman led the Panthers' rushing game with five carries for 69 yards.

UNI scored on the opening possession of the game, taking the ball 64 yards on nine plays. The drive was capped by a Pat Grace one-yard touchdown run with 11:40 remaining in the first quarter. 

South Dakota answered on its first play from scrimmage with a 70-yard flea flicker pass from quarterback Noah Shepard to Ben Oberle, and the game was tied 7-7 with 11:24 remaining in the first quarter.

The Panthers answered with a 10-play, 83-yard drive that ended with a Billy Hallgren 27-yard field goal, giving UNI the lead for good at the 6:12 mark.

The following Coyote possession ended with James Ruffin forcing a fumble that Wes Lane recovered on fourth down at the Panther 37-yard line.

UNI put up 35 points in the second quarter with Grace leading the way. Grace ran 11 yards for a score on a third down play to get the scoring started. On the next Panther possession he found Eyman, who turned up the sideline for a 47-yard scoring strike. A little over two minutes later, Grace hit D.J. Hord across the middle from 21 yards out to put the Panthers ahead 31-7 with 7:07 left in the first half. 

Grace went over 300 yards passing before the two minute mark of the second quarter, in the midst of a nine play, 98-yard drive. The senior from Sioux City, Iowa, ran it in from three yards out with 54 seconds remaining in the half to extend the lead to 38-7. 

On the ensuing kickoff, kicker Billy Hallgren forced a fumble that Timmy Johnson recovered, and the Panthers capitalized with a 13-yard pass from Grace to Schuylar Oordt in the back of the endzone before halftime to make the margin 45-7.

L.J. Fort ended the Coyotes' opening drive of the second half with an interception at the Panther 26-yard line. Three plays later, Grace found Jarred Herring streaking down the sideline for a 75-yard touchdown reception.

Derrick Law added a touchdown run from 18 yards out in the third quarter, and Joe Johnson tacked on another score in the fourth quarter to set the final score at 66-7.

Junior safety Jamar Thompson led the UNI defense with seven tackles. Freshman safety Garrett Scott and sophomore linebacker L.J. Fort each added six tackles. Wes Lane, Timmy Johnson and Kyle Bennett each recovered one fumble for the Panther defense, while L.J. Fort and Andre Martin each grabbed their first career interceptions.

The Panthers improve to 1-1 on the season, while the Coyotes fall to 1-1.  UNI returns home on Sept. 19 for a matchup with Saint Francis University (Pa.) at 4:05 p.m.

Online reporter Mark Woodley
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