FARGO, N.D. — The turnovers won’t be forgotten.
Each of those mistakes were part of a group of missed opportunities that cost No. 10 Northern Iowa in a 46-14 loss to top-ranked North Dakota State Saturday.
There were two missed field goals, a dropped pass in the end zone, a trick play deep in Bison territory that resulted in an interception and a lost fumble that led to a quick NDSU score and 11-point early third-quarter deficit.
But that was not what frustrated the Panthers the most. UNI’s inability to slow the punishing Bison ground game allowed NDSU to control the action and turn a tight game into a rout in the second half for the second consecutive year against the Panthers.
Last season, UNI entered the fourth quarter with a 31-28 lead before surrendering 28 unanswered points during a 56-31 loss. NDSU rushed for 126 yards in that quarter to help bleed the clock and put the game away.
Saturday, with the game on the line, the Bison rushed for 148 yards and three scores in the fourth quarter.
“Halfway through the third quarter we were in good shape, doing things we were supposed to be do,” UNI head coach Mark Farley said. “But you got to be able to stop the rush and that is what I will remember more so than the turnovers.”
After holding its three previous opponents to 70 or less rushing yards, UNI allowed 347 on 51 carries.
NDSU averaged 6.8 yards per rush, and had three runners with 83 or more rushing yards — Adam Cofield (104), Kobe Johnson (96) and quarterback Trey Lance tallied 83 on 11 carries.
UNI entered the game having allowed 476 rushing yards in its first five games, and only 2.4 per rush.
“They schemed us up pretty good,” linebacker Bryce Flater said. “Their offensive line came off the ball hard and instead of us attacking them, they were attacking us, and that is something we can’t allow to happen.”
“There wasn’t a surprise out there,” added Farley. “We got beat at the line of scrimmage on defense in the second half and that was the telltale of the game.
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“What’s frustrating is what we should be good at, defending the run, we weren’t good at in the second half.”
WESTON STREAK: Isaiah Weston’s 17-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter was the fifth consecutive game the sophomore had caught a receiving touchdown.
The last time a Panther did that was James Lindgren in 2006.
“It’s not something I’ve thought about a lot ... but it is cool to have done,” Weston said.
Weston finished with five catches for a career-high 129 yards. It was Weston’s third game this season with over 100 yards receiving.
THE OFFENSE: The two missed field goals obviously left points off the board, but the two touchdowns UNI scored were just the second time in six games NDSU has surrendered more than one offensive touchdown. Coming into the game, the Bison had given up only four offensive touchdowns.
The Panthers moved the ball consistently against a defense that ranked in the top 10 in 10 different FCS defensive categories.
UNI had five drives of 40-plus yards, including three over 50 while it protected quarterback Will McElvain. McElvain was sacked just twice and NDSU recorded just four tackles for loss, a season-low allowed for the Panthers.
“We did a good job in the first half, but a lot of missed plays down the field in the second,” Weston said. “We got the run game going in the second half, but we couldn’t get the pass game going like we had it in the first half.”
NOTABLES: With UNI’s tight end depth hampered by the loss of Tristan Bohr and Briley Moore, former linebacker Brock Hadachek saw extensive action at the position after making the switch last week.
Hadachek and former tackle Matthew Vanderslice were used in many two tight end sets along with Jayden Scott.
Wide receiver Aaron Graham recorded a career high in both receptions and reception yards with five catches for 57 yards. Playing a lot in the slot position, two of Graham’s five catches went for first downs and his other three all went for nine yards.
UP NEXT: South Dakota 4 p.m. Saturday in the UNI-Dome.
The Coyotes have won three straight since opening the season 0-3, and are a perfect 2-0 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference with wins over Indiana State and Missouri State.