Football Falls at No. 9 UNI, 45-14
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – The Drake University football fell behind early and couldn’t rally to close the deficit in a 45-14 loss to No. 9 Northern Iowa before a near sellout crowd at the UNI-Dome Saturday afternoon.
The ninth-ranked Panthers (2-0) dominated early, jumping out to a 31-0 lead before Drake could put together a scoring drive early in the third quarter. Drake’s (0-2) first drive after halftime covered 65 yards in seven plays led by the efforts of junior running back Gary Scott, Jr. (Forsyth, Ill.) whose seven-yard touchdown reception put the Bulldogs on the board. Scott paced the Drake ground attack with 62 yards on 16 carries and also had two receptions for 19 yards.
The Panthers outgained Drake 388-167 yards, including a 267-33-yard advantage on the ground. Drake did hold an advantage in the passing game with a 134 passing yards to UNI’s 121. UNI scored on all four of their chances in the redzone, while Drake capitalized on its lone foray into the redzone.
“They’re [UNI] really good and our hat’s off to them,” Drake head coach Chris Creighton said. “We think that they’re a great football team. I love our guys and think the world of them. I know we’re capable of playing better than we did. So I’m having a tough time, as the head football coach, not having my team at their best. Today was a really hard day for us.”
Junior Andy Rice (Stevens Point, Wis.) threw for 121 yards and one touchdown on 15-of-27 passing before coming out of the game late in the third quarter. His top target was junior Grahm Butler (Brock, Neb.) who caught four passes for a team-high 56 yards.
Senior Michael Ratelle (Edina, Minn.) returned an interception for a touchdown later in the third quarter to make score 38-14. Junior John Hugunin (Oswego, Ill.) led the Bulldog defense for the second straight week with 11 tackles for a defense that had strong performances in less than ideal situations.
No. 9 UNI was led by running back David Johnson, who had 13 rushes for 147 yards and one touchdown. Quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen was 11-of-14 for 121 yards and two touchdowns passes. Both Johnson and Kollmorgen left the game in the third quarter with the Panthers well in control of the game.
After a defensive stop to open the game, things went south for the Bulldogs as a fumbled draw play on third down and three-yards to gain, was recovered by UNI and returned 20 yards for a touchdown. Two series later, the Drake defense found itself defending a short field after a blocked punt. The Panthers moved the ball to the 3-yard line and the Drake defense held to limit UNI to a field goal.
Special teams’ errors struck on the next Drake possession with a botched snap on a punt giving UNI the ball on Drake 28-yard line. Five plays later, Kollmorgen found Phil Wright in the endzone to give UNI a 17-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
“We fumbled the ball, they picked it up out of the pile and scored,” Creighton said. “We had a tough punt there too. You can’t do those things once and beat a good football team, let alone multiple times. You’re making it very difficult to stay in the game.”
The second quarter saw UNI add two more touchdowns on short fields as the Drake offense sputtered, gaining just 48 yards in the first half.
However, in the third quarter the Bulldogs shifted that offense into gear with Scott’s touchdown coming on the first possession of the half. Unfortunately, Drake couldn’t maintain that momentum as UNI’s Johnson carried the ball 65-yards on the Panthers’ next play from scrimmage to maintain UNI’s lead.
Ratelle’s interception return for a TD closed out the third quarter and UNI tacked on its final score late in the fourth quarter to account for the final tally on a drive extended by a Drake penalty..
“Our football team would love to be 2-0 but that’s not how it works,” Creighton said following the loss. “Anytime our character gets challenged, it’s a good thing because I know our guys will respond. The fiber of these guys is unbelievable.”
Drake will have a bye week before turning its focus to a matchup with Indianapolis at Drake Stadium on Sept. 21 at 1 p.m.