BROOKINGS, S.D. — Mark Farley’s message never wavered when the University of Northern Iowa fell behind 10th-ranked South Dakota State 7-0 early in Saturday’s second-round FCS playoff game.
The message remained the same when the Jackrabbits took a 10-0 lead late in the first quarter.
Farley marched up and down the sidelines telling his team to stay poised and stay with the plan.
It was heard loud and clear by the Panthers.
Behind another dominating defensive effort and an offense that produced two long, second-half scoring drives, No. 6 UNI rallied for a 13-10 victory over South Dakota State to advance to the playoff quarterfinals for the first time since 2015.
Matthew Cook’s 18-yard field goal with 2 minutes, 10 seconds left proved to be the difference as the Panthers (10-4) earned a date with second-seeded James Madison (12-1) in Harrisonburg, Va., next Saturday.
“It was kind of a whirlwind in that first quarter against us,” Farley said. “We had to regain our momentum, and stay in the plan, too. It was more stay in the plan, stay together as a group and that is what I’m most pleased about is they stuck to the plan and stayed together.”
After being knocked to the ground by the Jacks three weeks ago in a 38-7 regular-season loss where the Panthers lost their poise and fight late in the game, this was an incredible effort, especially after everything went South Dakota State’s way early on.
“I thought the most important thing was to keep our poise,” Farley added.
Cade Johnson returned the opening kick 43 yards to midfield and the Jacks drove right down the field for a Keaton Heide 22-yard touchdown pass to Adam Anderson and the 7-0 lead just 2:50 into the game.
A short punt then set South Dakota State (8-5) up with a short field and the Jacks converted with a 22-yard Chase Vinatieri field goal, and it was 10-0 before 10 minutes had been played.
The blows kept coming as a Will McElvain pass sailed through the hands of Isaiah Weston and was intercepted on UNI’s best drive of the half with UNI deep in SDSU territory.
“I think the coaches did a good job of keeping us calm and confident,” said defensive end Elerson Smith.
UNI finally got the break it needed when Austin Evans forced Jaxon Janke to fumble a punt and Omar Brown recovered at the Jacks’ 36. Runs of 11, 4 and 16 yards by Trevor Allen got the Panthers to the South Dakota State 5 before UNI settled for Cook’s 23-yard yard field goal just before half.
The Panthers got the ball to start the third and the much-maligned offensive unit delivered when it was most needed.
Allen rushed for a pair of first downs and caught a pass for another before McElvain hit Aaron Graham for a 33-yard gain to the SDSU 4. Two plays later, Allen dove over from the 2 and the game was tied 10-all.
“All that criticism is coming from the outside,” Allen said. “Our team, we know what we can do, know what we are capable of doing, and we showed everyone that today.”
South Dakota State responded by driving to the UNI 28, but Smith got his hands on a 45-yard field goal attempt by Vinatieri to keep the game knotted. It was one of many big plays by adefense that held the Jacks to a season-low 220 yards.
“Give credit to UNI, I didn’t think we ever got in rhythm on offense for three quarters, after the first quarter,” South Dakota State coach John Steigelmeier said.
“Guys stepped up and the defensive line played excellent ... a lot of guys played great,” added UNI linebacker Spencer Cuvelier.
The game remained 10-10 until McElvain made two special plays and Farley made one gutsy decision on the 12-play, 80-yard, game-winning drive.
McElvian scrambled for a 31-yard gain to midfield to get the Panthers ignited.
Then on fourth-and-two from the Jacks’ 42, Trevor Allen, running behind defensive tackle/fullback Khristian Boyd, plowed ahead for the first down.
“When you get in this situation you have to make those plays and these guys believed in making that play,” Farley said.
Facing a third-and-six from the SDSU 36, McElvain hit Suni Lane on a deep fade/corner to the Jacks’ 5. UNI ran three times up the middle with Allen nearly scoring, but was held short and called on Cook.
Just as important, South Dakota State had to burn its last two timeouts.
The Jacks got the ball back with 2:05 left, but two holding penalties hurt them and a fourth-and-15 pass from their own 30 was knocked down.
“We knew we had to come in and find a way to win as a group of 64 and they did that today,” Farley said. “This was a big win and is a heck of a deal to withstand the whirlwind early and play the four quarters the way we did.
“Our team should be proud. Our university should be proud. “
UNI 13, South Dakota St. 10
Northern Iowa 0 3 7 3 — 13
S. Dakota St. 10 0 0 0 — 10
SDS — Anderson 22 pass from Heide (Vinatieri kick), 12:10. (Drive: 5 plays, 50 yards, 2:50).
SDS — FG Vinatieri 22, 5:52. (Drive: 9 plays, 36 yards, 4:05).
UNI — FG Cook 23, 2:13. (Drive: 7 plays, 30 yards, 2:54).
UNI — T. Allen 2 run (Cook kick), 9:20. (Drive: 10 plays, 75 yards, 5:40).
UNI — FG Cook 18, 2:10. (Drive: 12 plays, 80 yards, 5:48).
Att. — 4,102.
First downs 15 11
Rushes-yards 44-114 23-53
Passing yards 124 162
Comp-att-int 11-21-1 13-26-1
Return yards 33 124
Punts-avg. 6-37.5 4-43.5
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-2
Penalties-yards 10-76 7-70
Time of possession 36:24 23:36
UNI — T. Allen 24-90, McElvain 16-23, Schnee 1-2, Mooney 1-1, Team 2-minus 2.
SOUTH DAKOTA ST. — Daniel 9-43, C. Wilson 9-20, Cade. Johnson 1-3, Heide 4-minus 13.
UNI — McElvain 11-21-1, 124 yards.
SOUTH DAKOTA ST. — Heide 13-26-1, 162 yards.
UNI — Graham 3-45, Lane 2-37, Weston 2-13, T. Allen 2-9, James 1-12, Scott 1-8.
SOUTH DAKOTA ST. — Cade. Johnson 5-35, Anderson 4-84, Hart 2-19, Jax.Janke 1-15, Kunz 1-9.
UNI — Flater 5-3-8, Cuvelier 5-3-8, Brinkman 4-2-6, Boyd 2-4-6, Evans 3-1-4, Wells 1-3-4, Smith 2-1-3, Jegen 1-2-3, Brown 2-0-2, Lawrence 1-1-2, Schultz 1-1-2, Williams 0-2-2, Kibby 0-2-2, Murphy 1-0-1.
SOUTH DAKOTA ST. — Rozeboom 7-3-10, Wilson 6-4-10, Manchigiah 4-5-9, Earith 4-4-8, Backhaus 4-2-6, Gardner 3-0-3, Tetzlaff 1-2-3, Norblade 2-0-2, Winkelman 1-1-2, Sanders 1-1-2, Gandy 1-1-2, Hicks 1-1-2, Smenda 0-2-2, Ogunrinde 0-2-2, Stacker 1-0-1, Krolikowski 1-0-1, Sellers 1-0-1, Madison 0-1-1, Hart 0-1-1, Janke 0-1-1, Griffin 0-1-1.
Tackles for loss
UNI — Brinkman 2-5, Smith 2-7, Cuvelier 1-7, Wells 1-5.
SOUTH DAKOTA ST. — Earith 2.5-29, Wilson 2-2, Backhaus 2-3, Rozeboom 1-9, Norblade 1-2, Winkelman 1-3, Hicks 0.5-1.
UNI — Cuvelier 1-7, Wells 1-5, Smith 1-6.
SOUTH DAKOTA ST. — Earith 2.5-29, Rozeboom 1-9, Winkelman 1-3, Hicks 0.5-1.
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!