SACRAMENTO, California – Northern Iowa trailed Sacramento State at halftime Saturday at Hornet Stadium.
When the Panthers came out of the lockerroom for the second half it was a brand new day.
After getting only seven passing yards from Will McElvain in the first half, UNI switched to Michigan State transfer Theo Day to begin the second half.
The end result was an offensive explosion.
Day led the Panthers on four third-quarter touchdown drives as UNI rolled to a 34-16 victory.
“Everybody played well,” UNI head coach Mark Farley said. “The running game was good…but for sure, Theo sparked the offense. He made some nice decisions.”
Trailing 9-7 at the break, the Panther defense forced a quick three and out and then on his second pass attempt Day hit Isaiah Weston on a 48-yard pass play to set up a Tyler Hoosman 1-yard touchdown run to put UNI head it would never relinquish.
It was an onslaught of offense and defense thereafter.
Spencer Cuvelier’s second fumble recovery of the game set up a Vance McShane 2-yard touchdown run, and then Day hit Weston on a 34-yard touchdown.
To cap off the 27-point third quarter, Day hit Quan Hampton for a 9-yard score six plays after a Korby Sander interception and all of a sudden it was 34-9.
Day finished 6 of 11 for 120 yards and he rushed three times for 14.
UNI ran for 221 yards on 41 carries as Dom Williams had 97 yards on 16 carries. McShane ran 10 times for 65 yards and his two scores.
Weston had three catches for 92 yards.
“The offense re-energized the whole team,” Farley said.
“It was amazing third quarter,” Williams added. “It was a great feeling in the third quarter to score on all four of our possessions. Theo was very calm, just a natural leader and he took control of the whole offense. It was good seeing him be patient for it to be his time.”
The defense forced six turnovers – three interceptions (Benny Sapp, Sander and Omar Brown) and three fumbles. Spencer Cuvelier recovered two of those fumbles while recording 15 tackles. Sander had 11.
Jared Brinkman had a strip sack with Tim Butcher recovering that fumble. Caden Houghtelling had 2 ½ tackles for loss from his defensive end position.
UNI had not forced six turnovers in a game since it forced six in 2012 against Division II Central State.
“Honestly, it was a lot of fun,” Cuvelier said. “It was playing team football. That was the big halftime speech from Farley was coming together. The third and fourth quarters we came together and played our butts off.”
UNI opened the scoring after Cuvelier recovered a Asher O’Hara fumble on the Hornet 23.
After Williams converted a short 3rd-and-three run, McShane scored on his very first carry as a Panther, a 13-yard run. Left tackle Trevor Penning cleared the way with a pancake block on the left edge.
But Sac State would use three Kyle Sentowski field goals to take a 9-7 halftime lead.
The Panthers twice had golden opportunities to add to its early lead. After a Benny Sapp interception, Will McElvain fumbled inside of the Hornet 30 early in the second quarter.
Then with 3 minutes left to half, Matthew Cook missed a 38-yard field goal wide left after UNI had driven 60 yards, all on the ground.
“It was a frustrating first half,” Farley said. “We didn’t have any energy. We were all frustrated in the first half. We were just slow. The heat, and it was hot, and the travel magnified it.
“It was not a fun first half. It was a very adverse situation where we were expending a lot of energy and not making much progress. But we gutted up and did a good job. A tremendous road win. We are a worn football team, but a happy football team.”
UNI 34, Sac State 16
No. Iowa 7 0 27 0 — 34
Sac State 3 6 0 7 — 16
UNI – V. McShane 13 run (Cook kick), 10:41. (Scoring drive: 4 plays, 23 yards, 1:55)
Sac St. – Sentkowski 39 FG, 6:44. (Scoring drive: 10 plays, 53 yards, 3:50).
Sac St. – Sentkowski 26 FG, 5:57. (Scoring drive: 16 plays, 64 yards, 7:31).
Sac St. – Sentkowski 38 FG, :08. (Scoring drive: 8 plays, 58 yards, 2:52).
UNI – Tyler Hoosman 1 run (Cook kick), 10:44 (Scoring drive: 6 plays, 78 yards, 3:11).
UNI – V. McShane 2 run (Cook kick), 8:38. (Scoring drive: 2 plays, 24 yards, :53).
UNI – Weston 34 pass from Day (Cook kick), 5:21. (Scoring drive: 6 plays, 56 yards, 1:52).
UNI – Hampton 9 pass from Day (Pass failed), :52. (Scoring drive: 6 plays, 27 yards, 3:12).
Sac St. – Dotson 11 run (Sentkowski kick), 11:08. (Scoring drive: 5 plays, 69 yards, 1:26).
First downs 21 27
Rushes-yards 42-219 32-106
Passing 127 349
Comp-Att-Int 8-17-0 34-57-3
Return Yards 27 57
Punts-Avg. 4-37.5 2-43.5
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 3-3
Penalty-Yards 2-15 7-76
Time of Possession 26:49 33:11
RUSHING—N. Iowa, Do. Williams 16-97, Va. McShane 10-65, Br. Shaw 10-38, Th. Day 3-14, Wi. McElvain 1-6, Ty. Hoosman 1-1, Team 1-(minus 2). Sacramento St., As. O’Hara 17-55, El. Dotson 7-38, BJ. Perkinson 5-11, Ja. Dunniway 1-3, Is. Gable 1-1, Ma. Fulcher 1-(minus 2).
PASSING—N. Iowa, Th. Day 6-11-0-120, Wi. McElvain 2-6-0-7. Sacramento St., As. O’Hara 32-53-3-338, Ja. Dunniway 2-4-0-11.
RECEIVING—N. Iowa, Is. Weston 3-92, Qu. Hampton 2-21, Sa. Schnee 1-8, De. McShane 2-6. Sacramento St., Pi. Williams 9-122, Ma. Martin 7-84, El. Dotson 9-48, Ch. Miller 1-36, Ma. Fulcher 3-17, Ca. Skattebo 1-15, BJ. Perkinson 3-14, De. Gandy 1-13.