Panthers pummel Missouri State in Dunne’s debut

CEDAR FALLS – In his first career start, Northern Iowa sophomore quarterback Eli Dunne racked up a career-high 418 passing yards and two touchdowns on the way to a 61-7 win over Missouri State on Saturday inside the UNI-Dome.

Dunne completed his first 12 pass attempts of the game, finishing 25-for-33 while completing at least one pass to 10 different receivers.

Two of those completions went to Trevor Allen, who finished with 108 yards and a 61-yard touchdown. Daurice Fountain also had four catches for 87 yards with J’Veyon Browning leading the Panthers (3-4, 2-2) on the ground with 50 yards.

Dunne wasn’t the only star of the show with the defense holding the Bears to just 81 rushing yards on the game, the fifth time UNI has held an opponent under 100 yards rushing. UNI finished the game with three interceptions, including pick-sixes from Elijah Campbell and Duncan Ferch. It’s the second-straight week with an interception return for a touchdown for Ferch.

The Panthers got off to a quick start, thanks in part to A.J. Allen, who picked off Missouri State’s first pass of the game. Allen put UNI on the MSU 2-yard-line and after a goal-line stand from the Bears, UNI settled on an 18-yard field goal from Austin Errthum to take a 3-0 lead with 12:52 left in the first quarter.

UNI didn’t slow down on either side of the ball after the field goal, only allowing three Missouri State first downs in the first quarter. UNI jumped out to a 17-0 lead to end the quarter after Michael Malloy punched in two 1-yard rushing touchdowns.

The scoring didn’t stop for the Panthers, putting more points on the board to start the second quarter. Tyvis Smith found his way into the end zone this time, adding the third rushing score of the game. His 8-yard rushing touchdown ended a seven-play, 79-yard drive that burned 2:56 off the clock, giving Northern Iowa a 24-0 lead with 13:07 left to play in the first half.

The Panthers saw another Allen brother come up with a big play in the second quarter, with Trevor scoring his second touchdown of the season. Dunne found the redshirt freshman open on the sideline, connecting for a 61-yard touchdown reception to put UNI in front 31-0 with 7:57 on the clock. It ended a five-play, 90-yard drive.

Against Youngstown State, UNI only had two passing plays for 20-or-more yards. In just the first half against Missouri State the Panthers had six with Dunne at the helm. Dunne became the program’s first 400-yard passer since Pat Grace achieved the feat in 2009.

The Panthers kept rolling into the second half with Jalen Rima scoring his first-career touchdown in the Purple and Old Gold at the 9:43 mark in the third quarter. Dunne found Rima open for a 17-yard passing score.

UNI added to its tally just seconds later when Campbell came up with his first interception as a Panther, running it back 42 yards to paydirt. The St. Paul native recorded UNI’s 12th interception of the season and the second of the game, boosting the Panthers’ lead to 47-7 with 9:22 left in the third.

Pick-sixes became a habit for the Panthers in the third quarter, with Ferch scoring UNI’s second of the game with just 8 seconds left to play in the quarter. It was Ferch’s second interception return for a touchdown this season, returning it for 23 yards to the end zone to give UNI a 54-7 advantage.

UNI’s final touchdown of the game came at the hands of Browning, the Panthers’ fourth running back to score against the Bears. The Kansas City native notched an 11-yard rushing score with 2:27 left in the fourth quarter.

Northern Iowa will return to action next Saturday when it hosts the North Dakota State Bison for its ‘blackout’ game. The game is set to kick off at 6 p.m.