CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa football’s offense sputtered and at times completely stalled through its first two games. Saturday’s home opener at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls started, and finished, with better results all around in a decisive 44-0 victory over Hampton.
The Panthers put to rest concerns of lingering slow-start issues with a nine-play, 79-yard opening drive.
Marcus Weymiller — who finished with 78 yards on 20 carries — had runs of 6, 2 and 6 yards while Eli Dunne connected on 5 of 6 attempts. Dunne capped the drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Elias Nissen and the Panthers (1-2) were on their way toward washing away the pitfalls of their first two losses.
“One, we wanted to start fast and I thought we did that,” UNI head coach Mark Farley said. “This was a great learning experience to develop our football team. One was to get the win, that was the critical thing to do. But, two, was to start building the team into the conference season which starts on Thursday.”
Hampton’s first half was almost completely listless as the UNI defense limited it to 59 total yards and intercepted quarterback Delmon Williams twice. The Pirates (1-2) managed eight first downs and got into the red-zone once, missing a 31-yard field goal attempt.
UNI used two Austin Errthum field goals and a 51-yard touchdown run from Trevor Allen to take a 20-0 advantage into halftime.
UNI opened the second half with a seven-play, 45-yard drive that featured multiple plays from the wildcat formation quarterbacked by Weymiller. A 25-yard screen pass from Dunne to Trevor Allen set up a 9-yard Weymiller touchdown run from the wildcat.
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“We wanted to get to (the wildcat) early,” Farley said. We had to get confidence in (the run game). It started with the wildcat because that’s probably the easiest thing to run to get the timing established.”
The Pirates turned to backup quarterback Bruce Dixon on their next drive. However, backed up in its own territory, Hampton’s switch to a cold quarterback led to a Xavior Williams interception that was immediately followed by a 19-yard touchdown pass from Dunne to Nick Fossey.
UNI continued to pile it on over the final 20-plus minutes, scoring twice. The highlight was a 12-yard touchdown pass from Dunne — who finished 16 of 23 for 191 yards and three touchdowns — to McShane. McShane, who totaled seven catches for 117 yards, caught a contested ball between two defenders for his first career touchdown in what was a standout performance by the true freshman.
“(Hampton) played a lot of man (coverage) today,” Dunne said. “Deion was in some good spots. He’s been doing a good job at practice getting open, beating (our) guys one-on-one so I just had some faith in him today to make some plays and he did.”
UNI will look to build on its win with limited time before its next game. The Panthers open up Missouri Valley Football Conference play next Thursday at 6 p.m. in Terre Haute against Indiana State (2-1).
“There will still be some soreness in trying to get fresh for Thursday,” Farley said. “This game was a good game if you’re going to say, ‘well there’s one good one before a Thursday night game.’”