CEDAR FALLS, IOWA – No. 18 Northern Iowa capitalized on five takeaways, including two interceptions by former Gophers cornerback Benny Sapp, to rout St. Thomas 44-3 in a nonconference game before 6,886 at the UNI-Dome.
The loss spoiled the Tommies' first game vs. an FCS opponent and ended their five-game winning streak dating back to October 2019.
St. Thomas (1-1) fell behind 10-0 in the game's first nine minutes before playing the Panthers much tighter through three quarters, trailing 23-3.
"I'm wildly proud of our defense," Tommies coach Glenn Caruso said. "[Effort-wise] that first half might have been one of the best halves we played in my 14 years at St. Thomas."
Northern Iowa outscored St. Thomas 21-0 in the final quarter, getting its final touchdown on a 12-yard fumble return with 55 seconds to play.
"I know that iron sharpens iron, and we are going to grow because we were tested," Caruso said.
"We're not going to be a wallflower that sits back and doesn't take on opportunities. We're not going to be somebody who sits there and gets comfortable. That's not who we are as a team or as a university."
UNI rolled up 386 yards of offense and had three long scoring plays. Dom Williams ran 36 yards and Vance McShane 41 for touchdowns in the first half, and Theo Day threw a 60-yard scoring pass to Isaiah Weston in the fourth. Panthers kicker Matthew Cook made field goals of 42, 46 and 32 yards and five PATs.
Tommies sophomore Louis Hyde converted a 36-yard field goal late in the second quarter for the his team's only points.
A high snap and fumbled punt led to UNI's final touchdown and those minus-28 yards of team rushing dropped St. Thomas' final offensive yards to just 105 for the game. Defensive back Joe Hird had an interception and nine tackles for St. Thomas.