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CEDAR FALLS — Daurice Fountain for 3. Oh, baby!
Northern Iowa play-by-play man Gary Rima will have the opportunity soon enough to start screaming that. Basketball season is right around the corner.
But he got the chance to sharpen up his trademark mic call Saturday at the UNI-Dome, thanks to wide receiver Fountain, who caught three touchdown throws from quarterback Aaron Bailey in UNI’s 42-21 win over Southern Illinois.
A very nice way for the Panthers (2-2) to begin Missouri Valley Conference play. An improved passing game was an emphasis during their bye week, and the passing game was indeed improved here.
“That was something we really honed in on,” said Bailey, who completed 11 of 18 for 186 yards. “Just focusing on ourselves, getting back to the basics. Changing the route depths, changing my drops, getting the ball out quicker. The protection as well. It was an all-around thing with the passing game, not just the quarterback. It was everyone.”
Especially Fountain. The junior from Madison, Wis., was Bailey’s favorite target, with a pair of scores in the second quarter and another on the first play of the fourth.
The first TD was especially beautiful. On 1st-and-10 from the Salukis 20, Bailey rolled right, stiff-armed a would-be tackler and lofted a jump ball a step before he went out of bounds that Fountain went up and got.
Another basketball reference there. Oh, baby!
Fountain is the first UNI receiver in 10 years to catch three touchdowns in a game. Johnny Gray did so against Youngstown State on Oct. 21 of that season.
“That’s what we needed to do. We had to go get the football instead of letting the football come to us,” said UNI Coach Mark Farley. “That’s kind of having that decisive attitude. Good throws, good catches. Very pleased by how the receivers made the plays today. We grew up at receiver, I think, today.”
“When we have one-on-one matchups, we want to take them with Daurice,” said Bailey, who had just two touchdown passes in his team’s first three games. “We felt like Daurice was able to get some space and create more passing game from there. We just went there, started attacking as much as we could. Daurice did a great job. He’s a great receiver. He’s a character, but I’m happy to have him.”
Fountain, who always seems to have a smile on his face, lit up when he heard his QB say that.
“Oh, man. He’s giving me too much credit,” he said. “He had a great game tonight.”
UNI took advantage of a mistake-prone Southern Illinois team that had a stunning 17 penalties for 150 yards. The Salukis (2-2) roughed punter Sam Kuhter to keep Northern Iowa’s initial possession going, with the Panthers eventually scoring on a 4-yard Tyvis Smith run.
Linebacker Jared Farley recovered a fumble on SIU’s ensuing play, leading to a Bailey 7-yard scoring run. A shanked punt set up an 18-yard Bailey-to-Fountain TD with under a minute to go in the first half.
Cornerback Malcolm Washington then essentially put the game away, intercepting a Josh Straughan pass over the middle and housing it from 44 yards out to put UNI up at halftime, 35-14. That was Straughan’s first pick of the season.
“We were in a Cover 5,” Washington said, with intricate detail. “I was the flat defender, so I had to re-route ‘1.’ If anyone comes out as a number two receiver, I take them. So I was re-routing number ‘1,’ we brought pressure, the quarterback rolled out and saw the number ‘2’ ran about a 10-yard out. I saw the quarterback try and float it over me, and I just took advantage of it and did what I could do.”
Straughan finished with 307 yards passing and three touchdowns, but Northern Iowa was able to basically negate Daquan Isom. One of the MVC’s top running backs, Isom was limited to 46 yards rushing and 36 receiving, even though he caught 10 balls.
UNI has back-to-back MVC road trips upcoming, including next week at South Dakota. The Panthers hope this is the stereotypical springboard.
“Just very pleased with our football team,” Farley said. “How they came back after two weeks. The execution was very good. How they handled them making a couple plays on us and coming back and scoring on them. I’m very pleased with our offense, our defense and our special teams. That’s what we emphasized, they took it to heart and did a great job.”
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