CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa knew it had to play a four-quarter game.
The Panthers played three pretty good quarters. It takes more than three good quarters, however, to win against the nation’s top-ranked team.
Defending FCS national champion North Dakota State scored 28 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to pull away for a 56-31 victory over No. 22 UNI Saturday at the UNI-Dome in Missouri Valley Football Conference play.
“Happy about the victory because this is a tough place to win at,” NDSU head coach Chris Klieman said.
It was a game that had all the ingredients for a Panther upset.
UNI jumped out to a 14-0 lead, and led at halftime, 24-21. An offense that clicked to 466 total yards against a NDSU defense that had allowed an average of just 225 per game in its first five, gave the Panthers a 31-28 lead on the last play of the third quarter.
Then it turned on a dime on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Eli Dunne’s third touchdown pass of the game, a 26-yard strike to a wide-open Deion McShane as the third quarter clock expired gave UNI a 31-28 lead.
But on the first play of the fourth quarter, NDSU’s Easton Stick hit running back Bruce Anderson, split out wide, on a dead sprint. Anderson made one Panther defender miss and he was gone for a 75-yard score.
It was all the Bison needed to stamp out the Panthers, who up to that point, had went toe-to-toe and answered every haymaker NDSU had thrown at them.
“That was a good play. That was a good call. That was the one that broke us,” UNI head coach Mark Farley said.
The Panthers got an initial first down after the Anderson go-ahead touchdown, but after moving up and down the field for most of the game, stalled and were forced to punt.
NDSU responded with an 11-play, 78-yard drive, nine of them rushes, with Stick fighting his way over the goal line on a first-and-goal from the one to make it 42-31 with 6:03 left in the game.
UNI gave the ball up on downs twice inside its own 35, trying to rally back, and the Bison scored after both of those failures to make it a wider margin.
“I don’t know. It is just how football games go sometimes,” UNI running back Marcus Weymiller said. “It was a great game up until the fourth quarter. You just keep plugging away and then the momentum kind of got away from us. We didn’t get it back ... let it slip away.”
UNI struggled against NDSU’s potent run game as the Bison averaged 7.2 yards per carry while rushing for 344 yards. Anderson had 179 yards on 23 carries, while Waterloo native Lance Dunn had 104 on 17 carries and a touchdown.
“Absolutely,” Klieman said, responding to a question of if his team’s offensive line play was the difference.
“Our offensive line played really well today and kind of wore them down as we went through it,” said Stick, who passed for four touchdowns and rushed for two more. “When we are playing that well there is a lot of things we can get to in the run game, and even throwing the football off it.”
UNI definitely feels like it let one slip away, especially with how it started.
On the third play of the game, Dunne hit Briley Moore 15-yards behind the nearest Bison defender for a 64-yard touchdown pass. Then after forcing a NDSU punt, UNI drove 92 yards in nine plays to set up a Weymiller 8-yard rushing touchdown.
“We kind of new some of the things they were going to try to do and Briley made a good play,” said Dunne, who passed for 362 yards and three scores. “We had a good fake, sucked the defense in and made a good play.”
NDSU finally got on the board with 35 seconds left in the first quarter on a 20-yard Stick to Darrius Shepherd pass, and then with a receiver open deep, Dunne was hit while throwing and the ball was intercepted by Marquise Bridges. His 29-yard return to the UNI 33 gave the Bison a short field and they took advantage.
Dunn caught a 3-yard pass in the flat on a third-and-goal play to tie it at 14-all with 12:55 left in the second.
The game went back and forth thereafter.
UNI responded with a 24-yard Dunne to Jaylin James pass to retake the lead at 21-14, only to watch NDSU march 75 yards, all on the ground, getting a Dunn 8-yard touchdown run.
Once again, the Panthers responded as a 32-yard pitch and catch from Dunne to Moore set up a 32-yard Austin Errthum field goal at the first half buzzer and a 24-21 halftime lead.
“It was a heck of a football game,” Farley said. “We played our tails off. Ultimately, at the end of the day, our defense wasn’t good enough.”
NDSU 56, UNI 31
North Dakota St. 7 14 7 28 — 56
Northern Iowa 14 10 7 0 — 31
UNI — Moore 64 pass from Dunne (Errthum kick), 14:04. (Drive: 3 plays, 75 yards, :56).
UNI — Weymiller 8 run (Errthum kick), 7:35. (Drive: 9 plays, 92 yards, 3:44).
NDSU — Shepherd 20 pass from Stick (Pedersen kick), :35. (Drive: 7 plays, 56 yards, 3:39).
NDSU — Dunn 3 pass from Stick (Pedersen kick), 12:55. (Drive: 4 plays, 33 yards, 1:52)
UNI — James 24 pass from Dunne (Errthum kick), 9:26. (Drive: 8 plays, 68 yards, 3:22).
NDSU — Dunn 8 run (Pedersen kick), 4:59. (Drive: 9 plays, 75 yards, 2:27).
UNI — FG Errthum 32, :00. (Drive: 7 plays, 55 yards, 1:19).
NDSU — Shepherd 22 pass from Stick (Pedersen kick), 8:50. (Drive: 4 plays, 35 yards, 1:53).
UNI — McShane 24 pass from Dunne (Errthum kick), :00. (Drive: 12 plays, 82 yards, 4:37).
NDSU — Anderson 75 pass from Stick (Pedersen kick), 14:49. (Drive: 1 play, 75 yards, :11).
NDSU — Stick 1 run (Pedersen kick), 6:03. (Drive: 11 plays, 78 yards, 4:56).
NDSU — Stick 31 run (Pedersen kick), 3:42. (Drive: 2 plays, 32 yards, :51).
NDSU — Cofield 25 run (Pedersen kick),1:38. (Drive: 2 plays, 28 yards, :37).
First downs 25 22
Rushes-yards 48-344 40-104
Passing 179 362
Comp-Att-Int 9-15-0 27-41-1
Return Yards 35 144
Punts-Avg. 5-38.2 4-40.8
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-0
Penalty-Yards 2-20 4-25
Time of Possession 29:23 30:37
NORTH DAKOTA STATE — B. Anderson 23-170, L. Dunn 17-104, E. Stick 4-35, A. Cofield 2-28, D. Shepherd 1-7, B. Robbins 1-0.
UNI — M. Weymiller 14-57, T. Allen 10-29, T. Hoosman 5-26, C. Howell 1-4, E. Dunne 9-(minus 8).
NORTH DAKOTA STATE — E. Stick 9-15-0, 179 yards.
UNI — E. Dunne 27-41-1, 362 yards.
NORTH DAKOTA STATE — D. Shepherd 6-92, B. Anderson 1-75, C. Watson 1-9, L. Dunn 1-3.
UNI — B. Moore 3-96, J. James 5-64, D. McShane 5-52, J. Rima 3-47, T. Allen 3-34, M. Weymiller 3-26, N. Fossey 4-25, S. Lane 1-18.
NORTH DAKOTA STATE — Marlette 6-3-9, Grimsley 3-5-8, Cox 6-2-8, Jordheim 3-4-7, Hayes 5-1-6, Tuszka 3-3-6, Hendricks 5-0-5, Bridges 4-1-5, Steidl 0-5-5, Menard 3-2-5, Hankey 0-3-3, Williams 0-3-3, Jones 1-2-3, Brown 1-1-2, Williams 0-2-2, Allison 0-2-2, Karcz 1-1-2, Butler 2-0-2, Wimbush 1-0-1, Weber 1-0-1, Kennelly 1-0-1, Darnell 0-1-1, Waege 0-1-1.
UNI — Ferch 3-9-12, Kolarevic 3-8-11, Sander 2-8-10, Allen 2-7-9, Douglas 0-7-7, Williams 3-3-6, Brekke 2-4-6, Lawrence 3-2-5, Neal 2-3-5, Brinkman 0-2-2, Wells 0-2-2, Brown 1-0-1, Applegate 0-1-1, Kibby 0-1-1, Suntken, 0-1-1, Lambert 0-1-1, Smith 0-1-1.
Tackles for loss
NORTH DAKOTA STATE — Marlette 0.5-1, Cox 1-5, Hendricks 0.5-0, Menard 1.5-13, Karcz 0.5-3.
UNI — Ferch 1-2, Neal 0.5-3, Smith 0.5-4.
NORTH DAKOTA STATE — Cox 1-5, Menard 1.5-13, Karcz 0.5-3.
UNI — Neal 0.5-3, Smith 0.5-4.