BROOKINGS, S.D. — Some days teams have it, and others they do not.
Six weeks ago, Northern Iowa had it and South Dakota State did not.
Saturday in the second round of the FCS playoffs, the roles reversed.
Avenging a 38-18 regular-season loss, the Jacks (10-2) took control early and stormed to a 37-22 victory over the Panthers (8-5) at Dykhouse Stadium.
“Opponents have a lot to do with wins and losses, and South Dakota State did a nice job,” UNI head coach Mark Farley said. “To me, two very equal football teams. There were two good plans out there and today, South Dakota State had the better plan.”
In the first meeting, the Jacks made a series of errors that allowed the Panthers to take a 17-0 first-quarter lead, and SDSU never recovered.
In the rematch, the Jacks were nearly perfect in the first half, scoring on all five of their possessions as they led 26-7 at halftime.
“I didn’t think they were bad that first time,” Panther senior linebacker Jared Farley said. “I just think we played pretty well that day. We knew they were going to come out guns blazing. I thought we did a good job of preparing, we just came out flat and they made more plays than we did.”
What set the tone for the game was an aggressive SDSU team that converted two first-half fourth-down plays into touchdowns that built a confident team’s confidence.
“There was some motivation from a rematch game, a redemption game for sure,” SDSU tight end Dallas Goedert said. “I think we went out there, played really well and played a good game of football.”
Leading 3-0, Taryn Christion found Cade Johnson for a 2-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-goal play with 3:43 left in the second quarter.
Then, leading 13-7, SDSU went for it again on a fourth-and-one from the UNI 21. Christion took a direct snap and waited for a hole to develop before breaking a tackle at the line of scrimmage and scoring to make it 19-7.
“Huge,” SDSU head coach John Stigelmeier said of those conversions. “You not only get the yards or points, you get that confidence that we can do it when we need to do it, so they were big.”
Trailing 10-0 after one, UNI answered with its best drive of the game, an 11-play, 72-yard march that saw Eli Dunne find Daurice Fountain for a six-yard touchdown with 14:12 left in the second quarter.
Then trailing 13-7, there were two more turning points that put SDSU in firm control.
Facing a third-and-10 at the SDSU 10, UNI got the defensive look it wanted. After coming in motion, Fountain broke free over the middle on a slant with no one near him. However, SDSU defensive tackle Ryan Earith pressured Dunne, and his throw was off target.
“Saw what we wanted and knew what we wanted to do, we just didn’t execute on it,” Dunne said.
The Jacks answered with an eight-play, 83-yard scoring drive with Christion scoring on a 21-yard run and it was 19-7.
On the ensuing kickoff, UNI was flagged for holding, which negated a 40-yard plus return by Xavior Williams. Starting on their own 10, the Panthers weren’t on the same play for a screen pass and Dunne was flagged for intentional grounding.
UNI was eventually forced to punt out of its own end zone, and after SDSU took over on the Panther 44 and converted on fourth-and-one, Christion hit Goedert for a 28-yard touchdown with 31 seconds left to half.
“At halftime, as poorly as I thought we had played and know how we could play, I felt we were still in the middle of it,” Mark Farley said, “We were a play away from being ahead when it was 13-7. Those fourth downs were big. They have a good quarterback and he made some good plays.”
UNI drove to the SDSU 41 on the opening possession of the third quarter, but facing a fourth and seven, Farley chose to punt.
“It was one of those things ... we were going to go for it if it was two or three yards,” said Farley. “But I figured if we could pin them in and get the ball back at the 50 it was just as good as trying to make that attempt.
“There was a lot of game to be played and it was a choice of field position. You didn’t have to win at that point.”
SDSU ruined that strategy by converting three third downs during a 15-play, 79-yard drive. Although the drive ended with no points when Blake Thomas picked off Christion, it chewed up 8 minutes, 9 seconds of valuable time.
UNI scored twice in the fourth quarter, a one-yard Jared Farley touchdown run and a one-yard Trevor Allen run, but it came too late.
“Proud of our football team and how we played. We just didn’t come out well enough in the first half and then had to scramble a little bit,” Mark Farley said.
SDSU 37, UNI 22
Northern Iowa 0 7 0 15 — 22
S. Dakota St. 10 16 0 11 — 37
SDS — FG Vinatieri 29, 10:02. (Drive: 11 plays, 63 yards, 4:58).
SDS — Johnson 2 pass from Christion (Vinatieri kick), 3:43. (Drive: 7 plays, 70 yards, 3:58).
UNI—Fountain 6 pass from Dunne (Errthum kick), 14:12. (Drive: 11 plays, 72 yards, 4:23).
SDS—FG Vinatieri 55, 12:17. (Drive: 4 plays, minus-9 yards, 1:42).
SDS—Christion 21 run (pass failed), 5:03. (Drive: 8 plays, 83 yards, 4:19).
SDS—Goedert 28 pass from Christion (Vinatieri kick), 0:31. (Drive: 9 plays, 44 yards, 2:44).
SDS—Brown 30 pass from Christion (Wieneke pass from Christion), 12:03. (Drive: 3 plays, 35 yards, :55).
UNI—Farley 1 run (Errthum kick), 7:38. (Drive: 4 plays, 14 yards, :55).
SDS—FG Vinatieri 44, 4:11. (Drive: 7 plays, 24 yards, 3:25).
UNI—Allen 1 run (Rimas pass from Dunne), 2:44. (Drive: 6 plays, 77 yards, 1:21).
First downs 20 22
Rushes-yards 24-82 42-143
Passing yards 287 237
Comp-att-int 26-36-1 19-28-1
Return yards 138 70
Punts-avg. 4-30.8 2-35.5
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Penalty-yards 10-98 7-45
Time of possession 24:17 35:43
UNI — M. Weymiller 13-59, T. Allen 4-27, J. Farley 1-1, E. Dunne 6-minus 5.
SOUTH DAKOTA ST. — B. Mengarelli 18-45, I. Wallace 10-40, T. Christion 7-38, M. Daniel 7-20.
UNI — E. Dunne 26-36-1, 287 yards.
SOUTH DAKOTA ST. — T. Christion 19-28-1, 237 yards.
UNI — B. Moore 6-90, J. Rima 5-58, M. Weymiller 4-39, J. James 4-30, D. Fountain 3-28, T. Allen 2-24, E. Nissen 2-18.
SOUTH DAKOTA ST. — D. Goedert 6-83, J. Brown 3-51, J. Wieneke 3-50, M. Lewis 1-40, B. Mengarelli 3-5, C. Johnson 2-4, M. Daniel 1-4.
UNI — Ferch 6-6-12, Farley 6-4-10, Reth 7-1-8, Washington 4-2-6, Douglas 5-0-5, Brookins 2-3-5, Neal 2-3-5, Campbell 2-3-5, Williams 3-1-4, Woods 2-2-4, Jaghai 2-1-3, Sander 0-2-2, Errthum 1-0-1, Rima 1-0-1.
SOUTH DAKOTA ST. — Backhaus 8-0-8, Cox 5-2-7, Brown 5-2-7, Farina 4-3-7, Rozeboom 2-4-6, Harris 3-2-5, Balster 3-0-3, Vinatieri 2-0-2, Kern 2-0-2, Workman 0-2-2, Smenda 0-2-2, Soulek 0-2-2, Romenesko 0-2-2, Wieneke 1-0-1, McGary 1-0-1, Mosley 1-0-1, Ward 1-0-1, Earith 1-0-1, Kleinschmit 1-0-1, Hildahl 1-0-1, Hopp 0-1-1.
Tackles for loss
UNI — Reth 2.5-9, Brookins 2.5-16, Ferch 1.5-3, Neal 0.5-2.
SOUTH DAKOTA ST. — Backhaus 1-1, Kern 1-5, Earith 1-9, Hildahl 1-10.
UNI — Brookins 1-11, Reth 1-8.
SOUTH DAKOTA ST. — Kern 1-5, Earith 1-9, Hildahl 1-10.