UNI Panthers

Eli Dunne responds to benching with nice 2nd half for UNI, regains starting QB job

Northern Iowa Panthers tight end Elias Nissen (85) pulls in a pass for a touchdown in the fourth quarter as Iowa Hawkeyes linebacker Jack Hockaday (48) and Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back John Milani (18) try to block him at an Iowa Hawkeyes football game with UNI at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. Iowa won the game 38-14. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Northern Iowa Panthers tight end Elias Nissen (85) pulls in a pass for a touchdown in the fourth quarter as Iowa Hawkeyes linebacker Jack Hockaday (48) and Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back John Milani (18) try to block him at an Iowa Hawkeyes football game with UNI at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. Iowa won the game 38-14. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Eli Dunne is UNI’s starting quarterback next week. That answer was decisive and came quickly Saturday night from Coach Mark Farley.

Now whether he keeps that job could be another story. It’s up to how he plays.

“The answer to that we’ll see next week and the weeks to come,” Farley said, after his team was beaten by Iowa, 38-14, at Kinnick Stadium.

Dunne was benched in UNI’s season-opening game at Montana two weeks ago, with Colton Howell coming on to relieve him and sparking the Panthers’ offense in a 26-23 loss. Northern Iowa had last week off, so you had no idea who the guy would be here.

It was Howell, but only in the first half. He struggled as Iowa built a 21-0 halftime lead, pulled in favor of Dunne the final two quarters.

The senior from Grinnell was very good, completing 18 of 28 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns. He’ll get the nod next Saturday as UNI has its home opener against Hampton.

“As far as what I saw, when that happens to somebody, especially when you’ve got an Iowa kid and they’re playing at the University of Iowa, I’m sure that was a blow to him personally,” Farley said. “But he handled it tremendously. And he became a better quarterback because of that.”

“Montana two weeks ago, I didn’t play well, that’s for sure,” Dunne said. “Colton came out there and played well. We have quarterbacks in the room that are competing during the bye week. I understand switching out quarterbacks and getting them in there. I understand it.”

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Dunne’s a three-year starter for UNI, throwing for 2,704 yards and 26 touchdowns last season. So, yeah, he may have understood his benching, but he probably didn’t agree with it.

“I knew my time wasn’t over,” he said. “I knew when I got pulled at Montana that my time wasn’t over. I’m a competitor, and my teammates still have my back, my coaches still have my back. They just told me that there could be another opportunity in there for me, and I just kept competing during pratice. In the game, I got an opportunity, and I just rolled with it.”

“Eli came in and played with confidence,” said UNI’s Briley Moore. who had one of his team’s touchdown receptions. Fellow tight end Elias Nissen had the other.

“He went out there and did the stuff I see every day from him,” Moore said.

“I thought Eli did a super job,” Farley said. “I’m very pleased with his execution, his calmness, the way he accepted what happened. He became a better quarterback because of that.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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