UNI Advances To FCS Playoff Quarterfinals, 13-10
UNI struggled to find an offensive rhythm and gave up four turnovers in an embarrassing 31-point loss at South Dakota State on Nov. 16. Three weeks later, the Panthers returned to Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium and got revenge on the Jackrabbits.
On Saturday, Cedar Falls native Matt Cook booted an 18-yard field goal with two-minutes, 10-seconds remaining in the game to lift No. 6-ranked and unseeded UNI to a 13-10 come-from-behind victory over No. 7 seed SDSU in the second-round of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs. The victory kept the Panthers' season alive and earned them a trip to Harrisonburg, Va., where they'll face No. 2 seed James Madison next in the quarterfinals.
Cook's field goal capped a 12-play, 81-drive for UNI that included a pivotal 4th-and-2 conversion at the Jackrabbits' 42-yard-line. Trevor Allen's two-yard run allowed the Panthers (10-4) to keep the ball. Two plays later, Will McElvain completed a 31-yard pass to Suni Lane that put UNI at the five to set up Cook's kick.
McElvain ended the game with 124 yards on 11 of 20 passing and one interception. Allen finished with 90 yards on 24 carries and one touchdown. Aaron Graham had a team-high three receptions for 45 yards, while Lane tallied three receptions for 37 yards.
South Dakota State (8-5) jumped out to an early 10-0 lead in the first quarter after starting the game with a 43-yard kickoff return. Freshman quarterback Keaton Heide completed three-straight passes on the Jackrabbits' first possession, a five-play drive that culminated with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Adam Anderson.
Following a UNI three-and-out and a short punt, SDSU increased its advantage to 10-0 on a 22-yard field goal by Chase Vinatieri at the 5:56 mark. The Jackrabbits wouldn't score again.
South Dakota State turned the ball over on each of its first three possessions of the second quarter. The Panthers turned the third miscue into points when Cook connected on a 23-yard field goal with 2:13 remaining in the first half.
UNI tied the game with a 10-play, 75-yard drive to open the second half. Allen scored on a 2-yard run, two plays after a 33-yard catch and run by Graham on a pass from McElvain.
SDSU responded with a 10-play 45-yard drive that culminated in a field goal attempt. But UNI's Elerson G. Smith blocked the kicked, his second field goal block in as many games against the Jackrabbits this season.
With the victory, UNI returns to the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs for the first time since 2015. The Panthers will be playing the Dukes for the first time Friday at 6 PM (CT). The game between two teams that have a combined 37 playoff appearances, will be broadcast to a national audience on ESPN2.