CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa jumped on the freeway, hammered the gas pedal to the floor and never slowed down.
The end result was a 46-7 FCS first-round playoff victory over first-time qualifier Monmouth (9-3) Saturday at the UNI-Dome.
The 20th-ranked Panthers (8-4) scored on their first nine possessions as they posted the largest margin of victory in an FCS playoff game in school history.
“I was pleased with how we came out and were focused to play,” UNI head coach Mark Farley said. “We prepared great all week long ... and I was pleased with how we took control of the game early, then came back in the second half and still did some things to finish it.”
UNI’s biggest previous margin of victory in the playoffs was its 36-point win over Eastern Illinois in 2015 (53-17). The Panthers advance to play South Dakota State (9-2) next Saturday in Brookings S.D., with a 2 p.m. kickoff.
Against Monmouth, Eli Dunne passed for 260 yards and four touchdowns, while Daurice Fountain hauled in 10 passes for 139 yards and two scores. Reserve running back J’Veyon Browning rushed for 136 yards on 14 carries.
Dunne showed little rust after being out since getting injured in the first quarter of the Missouri State game two weeks ago.
“It was good to get out there and get in rhythm right away, and we were able to maintain that through the whole game,” Dunne said.
Defensively, UNI picked off Monmouth quarterback Kenji Bahar four times — two by Nikohl Jaghai, and one each by Xavior Williams and Elijah Campbell. The Panthers outgained the Hawks, 520-202 and held a 38:37-21:23 time of possession advantage.
“That was just preparation,” linebacker Jared Farley said. “Our coaches did a great job of getting us ready for what we expected them to do. They really did a lot of the things we practiced all week. We got a pick the second play of the game and that really got us going.”
UNI led 33-0 at halftime after Monmouth, an at-large qualifier from the Big South Conference, won the toss and elected to receive.
Rickey Neal pressured Bahar and Jaghai picked off his second pass of the game. Dunne threw his first touchdown pass seven plays later, a 16-yard strike to Isaiah Weston.
“One of the things we said going in is we couldn’t turn the ball over and give them any extra opportunities and take scoring opportunities away from our own team,” Monmouth head coach Kevin Callahan said. “Obviously we turned the ball over tonight.”
Jared Farley, who for the past few weeks has served as part-time fullback, made a highlight, one-handed, one-yard touchdown pass that made it 14-0. After that, the Panthers were never really contested.
Dunne threw all four of his touchdown passes in the first half as he was 15 of 22 for 242 yards.
“We were definitely in a rhythm,” Fountain said. “Eli gave me opportunities out there to make plays and thanks to my teammates, I did.”
Sam Drysdale and Austin Errthum combined to kick four field goals, and back-up quarterback Colton Howell scored on a 17-yard with 11 seconds left in the third that made it 46-0.
Reserves played most of the final 20 minutes for UNI as the Panthers held a mind-boggling advantage in nearly every statistical category. By the time UNI put in its reserves, the Panthers held a 447-129 advantage in total yards and a 16-minute advantage in time of possession.
Monmouth didn’t score until Bahar found Lonnie Moore for a 16-yard touchdown pass with 8 minutes left.
With a convincing first-round win in its back pocket, UNI can turn its attention to the fifth-ranked Jacks, whom the Panthers beat on Oct. 14, 38-18, in Brookings, S.D.
“I know they are going to be ready for us and be anxious to play us again because I know we handed it to them pretty good the last time we played there,” Dunne said. “It’s going to be a tough game, and we will be ready.”
UNI 46, Monmouth 7
Monmouth 0 0 0 7 — 7
N. Iowa 14 19 13 0 — 46
UNI—Weston 16 pass from Dunne (Drysdale kick), 12:21.
UNI—Farley 1 pass from Dunne (Drysdale kick), 3:04.
UNI—Fountain 17 pass from Dunne (Drysdale kick), 12:27.
UNI—FG Drysdale 37, 10:44.
UNI—FG Drysdale 22, 2:42.
UNI—Fountain 14 pass from Dunne (kick failed), 0:11.
UNI—FG Drysdale 26, 10:34.
UNI—FG Errthum 23, 4:05.
UNI—Howell 17 run (Errthum kick), 0:11.
Mon—Moore 19 pass from Bahar (Mosquera kick), 8:00.
First downs 11 27
Rushes-yards 23-61 44-246
Passing yards 141 274
Comp-att-int 15-28-4 20-29-0
Return yards 197 65
Punts-avg. 6-34.7 2-32.0
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-0
Penalty-yards 5-44 1-15
Time of possession 21:23 38:37
MONMOUTH — P. Guerriero 12-44, D. Jones 5-20, K. Bahar 4-minus 1, L. Moore 1-minus 1.
UNI — J. Browning 14-136, M. Weymiller 17-74, C. Howell 2-19, T. Allen 5-15, J. Farley 1-2, R. Schulte 1-2, C. Jegen 1-1, I. Weston 1-0, E. Dunne 1-minus 2.
MONMOUTH — K. Bahar 15-28-4, 141 yards.
UNI — E. Dunne 18-26-0, 260 yards, C. Howell 2-3-0, 14 yards.
MONMOUTH — R. White Jr. 7-81, L. Moore 2-25, J. Powell 1-15, P. Guerriero 3-12, V. Grasso 2-8.
UNI — D. Fountain 10-139, I. Weston 3-65, B. Moore 1-40, N. Fossey 1-9, A. Graham 1-8, J. James 1-8, C. Jegen 1-5, J. Farley 1-1, T. Allen 1-minus 1.
MONMOUTH — Basile 4-9-13, Iroha 6-5-11, Zubieta 2-7-9, Terry 6-0-6, Martinez 5-1-6, Nelson 2-4-6, Cooper 0-6-6, Massey 1-3-4, Thomas 0-4-4, Berry 3-0-3, Aumer 0-3-3, Gregory 2-0-2, Budd 2-0-2, Maragoto 1-1-2, Kelly-Gamble 0-2-2, Schoer 1-1-2, Moore 1-0-1, Grasso 1-0-1, Runza 1-0-1, Muhammad-Chambe 0-1-1, Talley 0-1-1, Wetzel 0-1-1, Clark 0-1-1.
UNI — Sander 7-1-8, Hartford 1-3-4, Washington 3-0-3, Jaghai 2-1-3, Suntken 3-0-3, Farley 1-2-3, Woods 0-3-3, Applegate 1-2-3, Wells 1-2-3, Douglas 1-2-3, Neal 1-1-2, Williams 2-0-2, Evans 0-2-2, Scott 0-2-2, Ferch 0-2-2, Reth 1-1-2, Campbell 1-0-1, Brookins 0-1-1, Nimmers 0-1-1, Lambert II 0-1-1, Smith 1-0-1, Errthum 1-0-1, Onken 1-0-1, S. Thomas 1-0-1.
Tackles for loss
MONMOUTH — Iroha 1-2, Martinez 1-1.
UNI — Applegate 1.5-2, Douglas 1.5-2, Suntken 1-1, Wells 1-10, Reth 1-1.
MONMOUTH — Iroha 1-2.
UNI — Wells 1-10.