CEDAR FALLS — There is no question that the Northern Iowa football team was hurting after its 38-29 loss to No. 15 Western Illinois Saturday night in the UNI-Dome.
The loss hurt, and the way the Panthers lost probably stung even more, as they allowed the Leathernecks to drive 65 yards in just 1 minute and 6 seconds to score the go-ahead touchdown with six seconds to go.
And it probably hurts even more since it is just the sixth time in 160 games inside the UNI-Dome that the Panthers have lost when scoring 29 or more points.
“Yeah, you always want to forget those ones that just stab you,” tight end Elias Nissen.
Nissen said the Panthers (2-3 overall, and 1-1 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference) will learn from both the good and the things that went wrong against the Leathernecks, and although the Panthers are facing a stretch of four-consecutive games against FCS Top-Ten opponents, beginning at No. 8 South Dakota State next Saturday at 2 p.m., they still believe in themselves.
“I have no doubt will be able to get back on track,” Nissen added.
That is a similar sentiment defensive end Rickey Neal conveyed what was the message among his teammates after the game.
“It is so much deeper than this,” Neal said of the loss. “We want to win conference. We want to go to a national championship. We want to be a great unit together. We want to establish a legacy. So when we are out there we want to dominant every snap, every play. That is the mindset.”
Head coach Mark Farley still feels this team has the right pieces, that on many instances it is doing the right things, but the inconsistencies, the turnovers (UNI had four of them Saturday) and the penalties at inopportune times have sidetracked the Panthers time and time again this season.
“What we are doing is right,” Farley said. “You have to get the total team (playing) together. It is one thing or the other that happened. You get one thing straightened out and the other goes array.
“It’s the team. It is not one thing, one person, one deal. All the pieces are there we just have to put them together correctly.”
MORE GAME NOTES: Linebacker Jared Farley matched his career-high with 14 tackles. ... Quarterback Eli Dunne is the first quarterback to have at least 23 completions, 259 yards and one touchdown in the first five games to start a season.
TUBA, NET, P.A.T. IS GOOD: Students have always gotten creative in ways to distract field goal kickers or more commonly free throw shooters in basketball games, but Panther kicker Sam Drysdale doesn’t get rattled easily.
After the Panthers scored with 43 seconds left to halftime, the UNI band was beginning to filter onto the field for its halftime show. One of the members had placed their instrument on the ground and it got caught in the net as the net was raised to catch the football when it went through the uprights.
So, long story short, there was a tuba in the net as Drysdale nailed his extra point attempt.
UP NEXT: No. 8 South Dakota State improved to 4-1 overall, and 1-1 in MVFC play with a 49-14 win over Southern Illinois at home. The Jacks rushed for 368 yards, including 220 by Brady Mengarelli while racking up 41 minutes and 30 seconds of time of possession against the Salukis.
SDSU won in Cedar Falls last season, 45-24, while UNI won the last time the two meet in Brookings, 10-7, in 2015.