Panthers Survive Nicholls State 34-14 - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Panthers Survive Nicholls State 34-14

The University of Northern Iowa football team kept its perfect home record intact after a 34-14 victory over Nicholls State on Thursday night in the UNI-Dome. The Panthers improve to 3-2 overall and remain 1-1 in Missouri Valley Conference play. Nicholls State playing just its second game of the 2008 season drops to 0-2 overall.

Playing just five days after a heartbreaking 27-24 loss to conference foe Southern Illinois, UNI saw the Colonels quickly jump out to a 7-0 lead after fullback Marlin Meeks rumbled in from nine yards out on the opening drive of the game with 12:07 left in the first quarter.

Junior quarterback Pat Grace quickly rallied the Panther troops to an 11-play 69-yard drive, capped off by a Grace 2-yard touchdown plunge with 6:10 remaining in the opening quarter to knot the score, 7-7.

The Panthers wasted no time finding the end zone on its second possession of the evening after Grace hit a streaking freshman wide receiver Jarred Herring for a 36-yard scoring strike to put the Panthers in front, 14-7.

After both teams threw interceptions on consecutive series, the Panthers were once again marching down the field; only to come away with no points after sophomore placekicker Billy Hallgren missed a 35-yard field goal wide right with 4:51 remaining in the first half. The Panthers not only came away with no points on the drive, but also lost star running back Corey Lewis to an injury on the series. Lewis would not return to the game and finished the night rushing nine times for 36 yards.

The Colonels got back on the scoreboard after the Panthers went three-and-out to start the second half. Colonels' quarterback Vincent Montgomery hooked up with Antonio Robinson on a 36-yard touchdown pass with 8:14 remaining in the third quarter to tie the score at 14-14. The touchdown catch completed a 10-play, 86-yard drive on their opening possession of the second half.

Just as they did after the first Nicholls State touchdown of the evening, the Panthers came back with another two-yard touchdown run by Grace to pull ahead 21-14 with 4:44 left in the third quarter.

Grace finished the contest with 244 yards of total offense (152 passing, 92 rushing) and three touchdowns. In three home games this year, Grace has accounted for nine touchdowns in the Dome.

Three plays later, Panther senior linebacker De'Veon Harris recovered a Montgomery fumble at the Nicholls State 19-yard line.

Unable to capitalize with a touchdown after the turnover, the Panthers had to settle for a 33-yard field goal by Hallgren to move ahead 24-14.

The Panthers scored on its third consecutive possession of the second half after Hallgren added another field goal from 43 yards out on the Panthers' ensuing possession with 12:20 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Sophomore linebacker Jamar Thompson picked off a Montgomery pass after the Hallgren field goal to set up the Panthers' fourth consecutive score of the second half.

Senior running back Derrick Law raced in from 12 yards out to cap off a three-play 25-yard drive for the final score of the evening. Law finished with 13 carries for 51 yards.

UNI will stay at home next week as the Panthers will welcome Illinois State to the UNI-Dome for homecoming on Oct. 11. Kickoff is set for 4:05 p.m.


Nicholls State Head Coach Jay Thomas
"We got our tails whipped tonight, particularly in the second half. We had too many penalties and mistakes. We can't allow those things to happen because we have our conference play beginning next week."

"In the first half, I thought we held our own and kept it close. But then in the second half we made mistakes and penalties and it seemed like we were always behind the sticks. I thought we recaptured the momentum after the fake punt but then lost the momentum after that when we allowed to go down the field and score."

"The storms have made it difficult as we have missed 14 days of practice. We looked like we played our second game tonight. Some teams around the country are playing their fourth, fifth or sixth games, but it's the cards we were dealt."

"It's a great atmosphere (in the UNI-Dome). We told our players that when you get into the playoffs this is what it will be like. We played a traditionally-tough football team tonight."

UNI Head Coach Mark Farley
"You could see we were tired because of the short week. It's as difficult a situation you can come across but it was important for this football team to show its character."

"Derrick Law did a great job and so did Taylor Brookins. Those two stepped to the forefront tonight."

"Our special teams were awesome. Billy Hallgren played his kickoff perfectly because we were trying to kick away from No. 20 (Lardarius Webb)."

Panther Notes: Senior Darrell Llloyd tied a career high with 12 tackles along with one interception ... the Panthers are 3-0 at the UNI-Dome this year ... the Panthers allowed a season-low 106 yards passing, but gave up a season-high 270 yards rushing.

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