MACOMB, Ill. – UNI’s defense came alive in the third quarter with a pair of Woo Governor interceptions returned for touchdowns as the Panthers earned their first victory of the season with a 52-17 rout of Western Illinois on Saturday afternoon.
Governor tied UNI’s single season record with his two interceptions returns for touchdowns, both coming on 49 and 43-yard returns to the end zone.
Theo Day finished the afternoon with 260 yards through the air with 3 passing touchdowns on 23-of-29 completed passes. Dom Williams led the Panther running game with 69 yards rushing with one touchdown, while Harrison Bey-Buie recorded a late rushing score. Quan Hampton caught 2 of Day’s three touchdown passes while notching 42 yard receiving, as Sam Schnee totaled a team-high 70 yards on 4 receptions. Matthew Cook converted on all 7 of his PAT attempts, and recorded a 34-yard field goal in the second quarter.
Edwin Dearman led UNI with 9 total tackles with Stefan Black II and Bryce Flater each recording 5 tackles on defense. Devin Rice notched his first 2 sacks of the year for 9 yards lost.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Panthers were able to keep the Leathernecks out of the end zone early thanks to a Benny Sapp III interception at the goal line. After a scoreless first quarter, the Panthers drove 73 yards down the field as Day connected with Hampton for the game’s first score on a 6-yard touchdown pass.
Western Illinois responded with a 34-yard field, but UNI quickly came back with another long drive, capped by a one-yard rushing score by Williams. Cook’s 34-yard field goal with under a minute to go in the second quarter gave the Panthers a 17-3 lead heading into the halftime break.
Hampton scored his second touchdown of the day on an 11-yard pass from Day on the Panthers’ first possession of the period, after allowing a quick opening half score by WIU. On the ensuing drive, Governor intercepted WIU quarterback Clay Bruno’s pass deflection by Slater and returned the ball for a 43-yard touchdown. Governor stunned the Leatherneck offense on the very next drive, intercepting Bruno again for a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown, giving UNI at 38-10 lead.
The Panthers found the end zone twice in the final quarter, early on a four-yard pass from Day to Desmond Hutson in the back of the end zone, and again in the final minutes on a four-yard run by Bey-Buie. The 52-point scored by UNI were the most recorded since 2015 against Indiana State.
UNI improves to 35-16 all-time against the Leathernecks with Saturday’s win, and 15-6 against WIU under head coach Mark Farley. The victory was UNI’s 4th consecutive win over the Leathernecks.
Place kicker Matthew Cook is now 4th all-time in school history with 57 made career field goals, passing Mackenzie Hoambrecker (2000-02). Cook is also 2 field goal attempts shy of tying Hoambrecker and Brian Mitchell (1989-91) for 3rd in career field goal attempts at UNI.
Woo Governor’s two defensive touchdowns mark the first time the Panther defense has recorded two interception returns for touchdowns since 2017. Governor is now one of 10 UNI defenders all-time with 2 pick sixes’ in their career.
The Panthers return home to begin a four-game home stand next Saturday, Oct. 1 hosting the Indiana State Sycamores. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. CT at the UNI-Dome on Band Day. Fans are also encouraged to wear black for UNI’s blackout game.
The game will be broadcast live on ESPN+ with radio coverage available on the Panther Sports Radio Network and 1540 KXEL.