David Johnson's Rushing, Receiving Not Enough For UNI
By Michael Bonner, Reporter
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The last time Northern Iowa made a trip to Kinnick Stadium, David Johnson was a guest of Iowa. The then-Clinton tailback attended the instant classic between UNI and Iowa as a recruit for the Hawkeyes. When an offer never came to play for Kirk Ferentz he took his talents to Cedar Falls.
Three years later he returned to Iowa City again as a guest. This time, he wasn't wearing black and gold and he didn't watch from the sideline. Instead he donned a white Northern Iowa jersey and was the Panthers' top weapon.
"He changed the course of the game when he was in there," Northern Iowa head coach Mark Farley said. "So it was very evident that he strengthened our offense."
He wasn't enough of a game-changer to reverse a similar outcome he saw three years ago, as the Panthers lost 27-16, but he kicked the game off that way.
Northern Iowa took the opening kick 83 yards to take a 7-0 lead with 10:36 remaining in the first quarter, silencing the majority of the 70,585 in attendance.
Johnson took center stage in turning the raucous environment into a nervous one. Of the 83 yards he accounted for 57 – 27 on the ground and 30 in receiving. He also capped the drive off with a one yard plunge into the endzone.
"It was very exciting, very good," Johnson said. "I just liked (scoring). It was a fun time."
The red-shirt sophomore wasn't able to enjoy it for too long. After the opening drive, where he saw the ball six times, he touched it just three more times for a total of nine yards the rest of the half.
During that same time, the Panthers' other backs rushed for 18 yards and amassed 32 total yards.
"We probably didn't stay with the run long enough," Farley said. "... We probably should have came back to some of that stuff and just try to pound the line of scrimmage and that was scripted of course. We probably should have tried to come back and try to pound the ball more because we were moving the line of scrimmage."
The three carries Johnson received in the second quarter marked the closest the Panthers would get to finding the end zone again.
The third carry brought UNI to the Iowa five yard line. At that point it was his eighth carry of the game with more than half the second quarter to play. Heading into the game, Johnson's high for carries in a game was eight against Wisconsin.
"We needed that touchdown right there. He was taking a lot of hits," Farley said. "Yeah, if you sat there and said that was your football game that you were living and dying for, we probably kept him in and kept grinding it. But he had already run the ball five-six times, and there's a wear and tear."
A touchdown would have made it 17-14 allowing UNI to retake the lead. Instead without Johnson being featured weapon, the Panthers couldn't post more than three points.
The Hawkeye defense also contributed to Johnson's diminished role in the second quarter.
"They kind of had us on our toes a little bit," Hawkeye safety Tom Donatell said. "They had a couple of things we weren't prepared for. Just things they hadn't shown. We made adjustments and took care of most of the stuff."
In Northern Iowa's first drive of the third quarter, it made a concentrated effort to feed the 6-3, 214 pound bad, with three straight carries. It only amounted to eight yards, but set the tone going forward.
His production on the ground would be similar to that of the first half, finishing with 77 yards on 16 carries. But Johnson stood out as a receiving option as well. He finished with a game-high six catches for 77 yards. His 154 total yards was also tops in the game.
"I just wanted to come out and do my best," Johnson said. "And help the team."
But unlike the first half, none led him to the endzone and the Panthers wound up on the same end Johnson witnessed three years ago.
"I really didn't see anything different, our offense was marching down the field," Johnson said. "We just couldn't score."