Nutt: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: Run Baby Run, UNI 53 EIU 17

Dexter-vs-EIU(MikeDunlop)

| photo credit: Mike Dunlop |

The University of Kurt Warner vs the University of Tony Romo.  Sadly, the quarterback play did not decide this game, it was all about the run.

UNI fans had the right to be nervous after the worst start to a game since their Dome loss to Western Illinois.  History looked to repeat itself but then the Panthers would score 23 unanswered points as the game went into halftime.

The defense was their normal stalwart selves and the offense looked great, especially with (gasp) deep passes for touchdowns.  Aaron Bailey has been making strides each week in the passing game and this was far and away his best performance. It looks as though he has finally developed chemistry with his wide receivers.  Daurice Fountain is now his favorite target, but Charles Brown has been a solid second option.   UNI’s passing game will need to continue to be as good as it was on Saturday — explosive.

UNI could not get anything going in the game’s first 10 minutes, running the ball for short yardage until Bailey started connecting on the deep ball.  In the end, UNI had over 300 rushing yards and 53 points on the board.  Nobody in the FCS Playoffs should want to face this team, and it’s easy to see why.

THE GOOD

Aaron Bailey.

Aaron had his best throws all season in yesterday’s game.  The first one was a 32-yard beauty to Daurice Fountain on a stalk-and-go play-action route.  He followed that up with a 52-yard strike to Brown where Charles used all the buttons on his controller to get in to the end zone, including a sweet spin move.  Then, in the third quarter Aaron Bailey scrambled and found Daurice Fountain again, this time for 41 yards and while throwing on the run.  Fountain made a great route adjustment, a great leap, and a great grab, but the pass was perfectly thrown.  We have been waiting and waiting for Aaron Bailey and the passing game to break out, and it finally did.  He finished the day 7-11 with 162 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and 18 rushes for 72 yards, including picking up some key first downs.

Tyvis Smith.

Three straight games of 100-plus yards rushing.  Tyvis has been nothing short of a workhorse lately.  The only other running back that I can think of that is carrying near this workload would be Nikko Watson for Western Illinois.  But, Nikko Watson doesn’t have the home run threat in his game that Tyvis does.  He finished with 24 carries, 147 yards and a touchdown.  Nearly had a second but the turf monster got him. He has been overshadowed by the play of Aaron Bailey but UNI would not be in the playoffs without Tyvis emerging as their no.1 running back.

The running game.

This has been the staple during the six-game winning streak.  Early in the year a game with numbers like yesterday’s, especially in the playoffs, seemed impossible.  323 yards on the ground was as impressive as the UNI running game has looked all season.  The yards came in a number of ways too.  Sevearl big runs along with the short yardage gains helped UNI control the clock and sustain their drives.  UNI held the ball for 34:06 on 69 plays.  Controlling the clock negated the 80 plays Eastern Illinois ran.

Defense.

The Ray Buchanan Jr  70-yard pick six was the icing on the cake of a tremendous day by the Panther defense.  The defense amazingly did not record a single sack, but they did grab three interceptions and forced two fumbles.  The first interception bailed out the UNI offense who fumbled on the first play of the game.  Had Eastern Illinois scored after that opening play fumble this game could have ended just like the Western Illinois game.  This Panther defense doesn’t always fill up the stat sheet but they have been solid, consistent, and dependable all season long.  A defense that scores touchdowns is always a welcome addition to any team trying to make noise in the playoffs.

Penalties.

If you watched Nebraska yesterday, or any team that has been .500 and below, they commit a lot of stupid penalties at the worst possible time.  Discipline is what is lacking.  UNI has done a great job the past six games of not taking bad penalties.  Bad penalties sustain drives and keep your defense on the field, or kill drives on offense and force you to punt.  UNI avoided that with only five penalties for 31 yards.

THE BAD

Tackling, in the first half.

UNI could not bring anyone down for about the first 10-12 minutes of the game.  Eastern Illinois quarterback Jalen Whitlow and running back Devin Church seemed to break weak arm tackles and turn negative plays into first downs or long runs.  The UNI defender would have the Eastern Illinois player dead to rights but they would somehow slip away.  Poor tackling was an issue for a few seasons during the Farley era.  This led to UNI not making the playoffs, but the past two years UNI has really done a fine job of making sure the ballcarrier goes down on the initial contact.  This game was the first time all season where that was an issue.

THE UGLY

The first quarter.

The first play from scrimmage, Michael Malloy fumbled.  Makinton Dorleant then got an easy interception to bail his offense out.  But, UNI could not get anything going offensively in the game’s early goings.  Eastern Illinois used a 10 play, 70-yard, 3:18 drive that ended in a 1-yard Devin Church touchdown.  Another slow start that was eerily reminiscent to what UNI’s losses during their three-game losing streak looked like earlier in the year.

  • Jason Groomes

    Dead to “rites”, not rights.