CEDAR FALLS, Iowa Northern Iowa ended spring football practice with a game pitting offense versus defense, seeking to rebound from the program's first losing season since 2002.
Rising sophomore quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen was 17 of 24 passing for 235 yards and a touchdown in one half of action last night, but his absence in the second half was apparent as the defense outscored the offense, 29-3, to claim a 51-31 spring game victory in the UNI-Dome.
First-string units squared off against the second string during four 12-minute quarters. Team defense was awarded points for such plays as forced turnovers, tackles for loss, and offensive three-and-outs. In addition to conventional offensive scoring, team offense could earn points with runs of at least 12 yards or pass completions of at least 16.
"What we got out of it was, I think we had to bring our offensive line, get some continuity there as well as in our secondary," UNI Coach Mark Farley said. "I think our secondary showed up tonight, and I think Kollmorgen moved our offense for us."
Kollmorgen directed an efficient no-huddle attack to touchdown drives on three of his first four possessions. Starting receivers Brett Lemaster and Kevin Vereen Jr. did not play, but Kollmorgen connected with receiver Chad Owens for a 16-yard score and a 27-15 lead for the offense with 5:04 remaining before halftime. Owens pulled in six catches for 69 yards.
"We've been working on it the past couple of weeks, I like it a lot," Kollmorgen said of the no-huddle. "Kind of a different tempo that we've done. We're trying to bring it back and it looks like we have the weapons to do that."
Farley said the benefits of a no-huddle attack are twofold.
"With Sawyer, he's really intelligent and we wanted to try that and see how he operated it," Farley said. "And it's good for our defense because that's the style of offense we're going to play, so we're training our defense as much as Sawyer."
The defense was bolstered by cornerback Makinton Dorleant, a transfer from Maryland, who returned the opening pass from second-team quarterback Stephen Kaiser for an apparent touchdown, only to have it nullified by a taunting penalty. Dorleant made amends in the closing minute, returning a Justin Black pass 74 yards for a celebration-free pick-six.
"I thought I'd have some fun with my teammates," Dorleant said with a laugh. "But in the end it's all competition so we had fun in the game. Just trying to have fun with all my boys, get better, and that's it."
Defensive linemen Karter Schult and Isaac Ales each collected two sacks.
UNI opens Aug. 31 at Iowa State.