Story by Mike Wendlandt
Photos by Joel Venzke
One week after upsetting Iowa State, the University of Northern Iowa continued their reign over Iowa with a convincing victory over the Drake Bulldogs Saturday afternoon 45-14. The outcome really was never in doubt, as Northern Iowa led 31-0 at the half and were in complete control throughout. This was a major test of the Bulldogs, as they traveled to a sold-out dome and were facing the 9th ranked team in the Football Championship Subdivision. They handled it well despite the score. After the game Coach Chris Creighton addressed the adversity the team faced, ”Anytime our character gets challenged, it’s a good thing because I know our guys will respond. Their fiber is unbelievable.”
The game started out with a bang, as Northern Iowa scored their first touchdown after a Drake fumble. It was returned 20 yards by linebacker Jake Farley after receiver Michael Hudson lost the ball. The Panthers later added a field goal and a touchdown pass from Sawyer Kollmorgen to receiver Phil Wright to end the first quarter with a 17-0 lead.
The second was more of the same, and Northern Iowa scored twice more to increase their lead, while Drake punted 7 times and fumbled twice in the half. The first touchdown by Northern Iowa was another pass, this time receiver Kevin Vereen from Kollmorgen, and that was followed quickly by a Brion Carnes one yard run to finish out the scoring. Drake’s only real notable play of the half was a late second quarter sack by 5th-year senior Brandon Coleman, that was followed by a blocked punt by linebacker John Hugunin, which gave the Bulldogs a prime opportunity to score before the half, but they could only move backwards and punted back to the Panthers.
The second half was a different story, as like last week, Drake seemed to have more fire in their eyes after a disastrous first half and they managed to stay even for the half, scoring right away on their first drive on a pass from junior Andy Rice to sophomore running back Gary Scott Jr. from seven yards out to give Drake their first score, but Northern Iowa came right back with a 65 yard run by running back David Johnson. The only other score in the third quarter was Drake’s biggest play of the season to date. 5th-year senior Michael Ratelle intercepted a Brion Carnes pass, Ratelle’ssecond of the season, and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown to close out the scoring for Drake. The Panthers scored once more in garbage time in the fourth quarter on a 30 yard run by Tyvis Smith, but Drake held strong in the second half despite touch odds.
For the second straight week, Drake came into a game with an undisciplined approach early that has hurt them both weeks. Coach Creighton said it best when he said that “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.”
Andy Rice was efficient in the game, completing 15 of 27 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown. Scott was an effective runner as well, accumulating 62 yards rushing on 16 carries, as well as catching a touchdown pass out of the backfield. The receivers were balanced, but no player stood out. Junior Graham Butler led the team with four catches for 56 yards as nine different receivers had a catch.
Defensively, Jon Hugunin continued his torrid tackling pace, adding 11 tackles to give him 30 on the season in two games. Drake accumulated seven tackles for a loss as well as Coleman’s first sack and Ratelle had his second interception of the season. Despite falling to 0-2, Drake is still confident in their team and they believe that they can win the Pioneer Football League and represent the conference in the playoffs for the first time in conference history. They are off next week, but pick up again on September 21 as Indianapolis comes to Drake Stadium.