CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) Redshirt freshman Will McElvain threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Weston, and Trevor Allen and Tyler Hoosman ran for scores, as Northern Iowa held off Youngstown State 21-14 in a Missouri Valley Football Conference opener between two ranked teams on Saturday.
McElvain staked the Panthers (3-2), ranked 13th in the FCS Coaches poll, to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter when he capped an eight-play, 80-yard drive with his TD toss to Weston. McElvain directed an eight-play, 79-yard drive - ended by Allen's 10-yard TD run - to push Northern Iowa's lead to 14-0 with 5:07 left in the second quarter. On the ensuing possession for the 17th-ranked Penguins (4-1), Nathan Mays needed just one play - a 75-yard scoring strike to Jermiah Braswell - to halve the lead at 14-7. But the Panthers took the kickoff and marched 75 yards, with Hoosman running it in from the 15-yard line for a 21-7 halftime lead.
The only scoring in the second half came on Youngstown State's opening drive of the third quarter. Mays completed all four of his passes in an eight-play, 75-yard drive, accounting for 56 yards with the last 14 coming on a scoring toss to Kendric Mallory that pulled the Penguins within 21-14.
McElvain finished 10-of-20 passing for 235 yards and a TD for the winners. Allen had a game-high 74 yards rushing on 16 carries. Weston had three receptions for 108 yards.
Mays completed 17 of 23 passes for 239 yards and two scores for Youngstown State. The Penguins were held to 55 yards on the ground on 36 carries.