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FARGO, N.D. | Northern Iowa's defense was dialed in from the start. The offense never found its game.

Second-ranked North Dakota State's top-ranked defense dogged Panther quarterback Eli Dunne all day long forcing him into five turnovers, and the Bison scored 30 straight points en route to a 30-14 victory over UNI Saturday at the Fargodome in Missouri Valley Football Conference action.

The victory helped NDSU (8-0, 5-0) maintain a firm grip on first in the Valley, while it snapped a two-game win streak for the Panthers (4-4, 3-2).

"They played four quarters of good defense, and we played two exceptional quarters of defense," UNI head coach Mark Farley said. "And I think we were just out there on the field too much on defense. We could not get our offense in position to take advantage."

NDSU which came into the game allowing just 192 yards defensively per game, held UNI to 157. Dunne was sacked six times, losing fumbles on three of them, all recovered by Bison linebacker Levi Jordhiem.

"The pressure caused problems for him and he had a tough day," Farley said. "The was really the essence of the game. We took away their throwing game, and they took away our throwing game."

UNI had just one drive that last longer than six plays and had four drives that ended in negative yardage.

"I was very pleased how we came out in the first half on defense and set the tone for the day. I thought our defense was light's out all day long," NDSU coach Chris Klieman said.

UNI had two interceptions and two blocked field goals by Adam Reth in the first half, converting Elijah Campbell's second interception into a 8-yard touchdown pass from Dunne to Daurice Fountain for a 7-0 lead with 11:14 left in the second quarter.

"I was very pleased with how we came out early and we countered every punch that was thrown out there in the football game," Farley said. "And our defense kept responding, we gained field position and got the lead.

"But they did a nice job in the second half of coming out, and we never got our offense going."

It looked like the halftime score would be 7-0, but with 4:08 left, Bison defensive back Robbie Grimsley read Dunne's eyes and stepped in front of Isaiah Weston and returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown.

From that point on it was all NDSU.

"Great call on coach Entz (Matt) on the empty set and Robbie (Grimsley) read the quarterbacks eyes and picked it off," Klieman said "That got us a lot of life heading into the second half."

The Bison scored on its opening possession of the third quarter, Dunne fumbled on UNI's first and NDSU turned that into a field goal for a 17-7 lead.

The back-breaker came early in the fourth quarter after it appeared UNI stopped the Bison deep in their own territory.

But NDSU went with a hard count and drew the Panthers offsides. The Bison then proceeded to drive 94 yards, getting a huge Easton Stick scramble and a personal foul late hit against UNI before Stick hit R.J. Urzendowski with a 31-yard touchdown pass.

Bruce Anderson made it 30-7 on a 1-yard touchdown run, before the Panthers got a 32-yard touchdown pass from Dunne to Fountain with 5:20 left.

"It was a hard fought game, we came out hitting hard, but we just lost our composure," Fountain said. "We got away from the game plan and was doing unnecessary things at times."

Fountain's two touchdown catches moved him into a tie with Jarred Herring, Jake Soliday and Alonzo Clayton for eight all-time in UNI history. His five catches for 43 yards now gives him 128 career catches as he surpassed Chris Nuss to move into 10th in school history.

Both defenses shined in the first half as the two teams combined for just 164 total yards and each team had two turnovers.

UNI took a 7-0 lead after Campbell's second interception of the game set up the Panthers at the NDSU 24. Dunne hit Fountain for an 8-yard score with 11:14 left in the second quarter.

That came after Campbell picked off Stick at the UNI goalline on NDSU's first possession, and Adam Reth blocked field goal attempts of 44 and 33 that thwarted three different Bison scoring chances.

"I thought we did a pretty nice job in the first half, we were just out there too long on defense," Farley said. "We needed to counter on offense (in the second half) and we didn't."

Contact Jim Nelson at jim.nelson@wcfcourier.com.

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