SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. A familiar game plan led No. 11 Northern Iowa to a 29-6 blowout of Missouri State at Plaster Field on Saturday.
“This was a game we needed to continue our momentum,” UNI coach Mark Farley said. “It wasn’t a ‘wow’ game, but it was a game that you’ve got to come down and get the job done and we did.”
UNI’s defense limited Missouri State to 169 yards of offense on 57 plays and held the Bears without a second-half first down until the final minute of the third quarter.
Switching between their 4-2-5 and 3-3-5 defenses, the Panthers (5-3, 3-1) held the Bears (1-6, 1-3) to 16 yards rushing and limited quarterback Peyton Huslig to 153 yards passing.
“I just think the whole defense was running to the ball today,” UNI defensive lineman Jared Brinkman said. “We knew we had the capability to do this.”
UNI’s pass rush — which entered Saturday averaging 3.14 sacks per game — registered five against Huslig with 1.5 from both Jared Brinkman and Elerson G. Smith.
“I thought if we kept (Huslig) in the pocket we could get him down,” Farley said. “So we tried to bring the four-man rush to keep him in the pocket and those four guys did a great job today.”
Offensively, despite poor weather conditions and getting shut out in the first quarter, UNI exploded for 19 points in the second.
Matthew Cook bounced back after missing his previous two field goal attempts two weeks ago, going 3-for-3. He hit 49- and 22-yard field goals to open the scoring — one after a Missouri State muffed punt.
“I told Cook right when (the) game was wrapping up that one of the bigger plays of this game was that long kick that he made because that was a critical part of the game,” Farley said. “We had just gotten the wind in the second quarter and that’s about the same place he hit it at Iowa State so I went back to him again because that was important for him to get that opportunity.”
After a Missouri State fumble on the ensuing kickoff, UNI only had 6 yards to gain for another score and QB Will McElvain scored his first rushing touchdown of the season on a 6-yard draw.
On the next UNI drive, McElvain — who threw for 238 yards — connected with Isaiah Weston for a 46-yard TD, the seventh consecutive game the two have connected for a touchdown.
“They’re definitely a show,” senior receiver Aaron Graham said. “It’s like Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill you know what I’m saying? It seems like no one can guard Isaiah Weston and I just hope it stays like that.”
Weston, who finished the game with five catches and 157 yards receiving, reeled in his second TD of the afternoon in the third quarter on a 70-yard catch-and-run.
UNI’s win was its first on the road this season, and it returns to the road next week against No. 8 Illinois State (6-2, 3-1) at noon.
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“There’s no gimmies, this was homecoming down here so they came out with the same energy we (did), it’s just who can execute and who can sustain and that’s what I liked about our team today.”