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CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa's offensive woes continued Saturday in a 13-6 loss to Missouri State at the UNI-Dome.
Quarterback Justin Fomby made an emergency start for the No. 10 Panthers, filling in for starter Will McElvain, who was ruled out due to COVID-19 protocols Friday morning.
Despite the redshirt freshman being forced into his first start, he completed 18 of 29 passes for 215 yards with one interception, but was mostly held back by an ineffective run game that totaled 27 yards on 26 carries and a 4-for-13 mark on third down conversions.
'We need to do a lot better on offense. That's very evident,' UNI coach Mark Farley said. 'To only come away with six points in a situation like that, we have to do something on offense to create some change. Time is of the essence. This may be dealt with as early as this evening and early tomorrow.'
Missouri State opened the scoring with a 13-play, 91-yard touchdown drive on its first possession. Quarterback Matt Struck — who started for an injured Jaden Johnson (concussion) — finished 19 for 25 with 174 yards and threw his only touchdown on the Bears' opening drive.
Missouri State added to its lead with field goals in the second and fourth quarters. The first was set up by Fomby's interception — a pass over the middle for Isaiah Weston that sailed high and was picked off by Montrae Braswell — and the second came on a 12-play, 55-yard drive that featured completions of 14 and 22 yards to Vick Damoriea.
Fomby responded after the interception, leading UNI on an 11-play, 65-yard drive at the end of the first half. A 27-yard completion to Logan Wolf got the Panthers to the Bears 5, but three consecutive passes fell incomplete while Fomby was forced out for second-and-goal after his helmet fell off on his first-down attempt.
'Penalties killed us all day long. Every time we started to do something on offense we had an offensive penalty,' Farley said. 'Justin did a good job getting us down there in that two-minute offense. Once we got down in there that tight, that's where it's probably most evident that we weren't ready for Justin to be the quarterback down there in that situation.
'You can keep a helmet on if you strap it up right. So, those things can't happen.'
UNI's defense again played like one of the best in the FCS, limiting Missouri State to 236 yards on 61 plays, sacking Struck three times and intercepting him early in the third quarter.
Benny Sapp III's interception gave UNI's offense plus field position at the MSU 45, but its struggling offense went only 10 yards after the turnover and was forced to punt.
'I'm pleased with our defensive effort,' Farley said. 'We need to continue to get better on defense. That first drive shouldn't have happened to us. I didn't think those seven points were the seven points that were going to beat us at the time, but our defense did buckle down and played a good game. It doesn't matter who played the good game, it's ‘did you win the game?''
UNI (2-3) travels to Western Illinois (0-4) next Saturday for a 7 p.m. kick at Hanson Field (ESPN+).