The Coyotes (3-4) turned the ball over six times as they suffered their first conference loss of the season on Saturday to No. 14 Northern Iowa (4-3) 42-27 in Cedar Falls.
Despite being the first opposing team to score over 14 points in the UNI-Dome this season (achieving the feat in the first quarter), the Panthers fought back to take a lead in the third quarter that they wouldn’t relinquish.
The Coyotes started the game off hot, scoring 24 points in the first half. Junior running back Kai Henry opened the scoring with a seven-yard touchdown run, his sixth of the season.
However, the Panthers had an answer for every Coyote score, as the two teams traded blows throughout the first half of play. UNI redshirt-freshman quarterback Will McElvain threw a strike to sophomore receiver Isaiah Weston a minute-and-a-half after Henry’s score to tie the game at seven, the first of Weston’s three touchdown catches on the day.
Senior quarterback Austin Simmons responded with a strike of his own, finding freshman receiver Billy Conaway for his first collegiate catch and touchdown to retake the lead before UNI sophomore running back Tyler Hoosman quickly knotted up the score once more with an eight-yard run.
The Coyote’s final touchdown came with just under two minutes in the first quarter, as Simmons found sophomore tight end Austin Goehring for the first touchdown of his USD career to regain the lead 21-14.
The lead was once again chopped down, this time due to a pick-six thrown by Simmons to junior defensive back Austin Evans, one of three interceptions Simmons threw. Despite junior kicker Mason Lorber connecting a 33-yard field goal to give the Coyotes a 24-21 halftime lead, USD couldn’t control the game again.
McElvain found Weston in the endzone twice more in the second half as part of his 213 yards and three touchdowns through the air, while Hoosman punched in his second touchdown as the final dagger to compliment his 111 net rushing yard performance.
Weston, who came into the game leading the Missouri Valley Football Conference in receiving yards, punished the Coyote secondary, totaling 189 yards and three touchdowns on only four receptions as none of the three other UNI receivers to catch a pass surpassed 10 receiving yards.
Simmons and company filled out the stat sheet in a 422-yard offensive performance hampered by turnovers. Simmons ended the day with 299 passing yards on 26 completions and two touchdowns, overshadowed by his three interceptions.
Sophomore Canaan Brooks commanded the carries for the Coyotes, leading the team in both rushes (14) and yards on the ground (45). Simmons ran for 80 yards on 20 recorded attempts, but also lost 46 yards as he suffered five sacks, bringing his net rushing total to 34 yards.
Conaway complimented his touchdown grab with 73 yards on two receptions. Junior receiver Caleb Vander Esch also put up 73 yards on six receptions, while junior tight end Brett Sampson added another 46 yards.
Defensively, senior defensive end Darin Greenfield broke the Coyote record for career tackles for loss, bringing his tally to 51. The record, held by Bill Gassen, had stood since 2002.
Junior linebacker Jack Cochrane and freshman linebacker Brock Morgensen led the team with eight total tackles each. Junior linebacker Jake Matthew tallied 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble, while junior defensive back Mark Collins notched his second interception of the season.
The Coyotes return to the DakotaDome to take on Southern Illinois (3-4) Saturday, Oct. 26 at 4 p.m.