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UNI grinds out 20-10 win over Illinois State
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NORTHERN IOWA 20, ILLINOIS STATE 10

UNI grinds out 20-10 win over Illinois State

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CEDAR FALLS – In a mighty defensive struggle, third-ranked Northern Iowa held its second consecutive opponent to under 200 yards as the Panthers scored a 20-10 victory Saturday at the UNI-Dome over Illinois State in Missouri Valley Football Conference action.

The Panthers (2-1) held the 15th-ranked Redbirds (0-2) to 186 total yards and forced a critical turnover late that helped UNI seal the win with a late touchdown from Tyler Hoosman.

UNI jumped out to a 10-0 lead as it scored on its first two drives, but could muster little after against a stout Redbird defense.

“I think it was fitting,” Panther head coach Mark Farley said of a big defensive play helping seal the win. “But anyway we can win we will take. Any time you beat Illinois State it is a great win. They are always very physical football team.

“We got off to a great start with these guys and I thought things were going well and it leveled off very quickly and became a defensive battle.”

But with the score tied 10-10 late in the third, Will McElvain hit freshman Tysen Kershaw for a 28-yard gain to the Illinois State 46.

On the next play he side-armed a pass to Quan Hampton for a 12 yard gain. The drive eventually stalled, but Matthew Cook nailed a 44-yard field goal to give the Panthers a 13-10 lead with 13:03 left.

It was all defense there after until Redbird quarterback was scrambling on a third down play deep in the ISU zone. He stumbled and then fumbled the ball. A scrum of players dove for it with UNI defensive tackle Jared Brinkman falling on it at the Redbird 24.

“When I felt that thing it was between my legs and I wasn’t going to let go,” Brinkman said of the fumble recovery. “I gave all my energy into it. Someone made a great play and I was just fortunate enough to fall on the ball.”

Four plays later, Hoosman broke a couple of tackles at the line of scrimmage and scored on a 13-yard run with 3:24 left that essentially sealed the victory.

“I just knew we needed a big play to close out the game,” said Hoosman who finished with 63 yards on 15 carries. “Talking with the coaches and whatnot, somebody needed to step up and I had the confidence and ability to do that. Our offensive line had a great blocking scheme drawn up and it was all about execution at that point.”

The defense then finished the job for UNI as Illinois State went nowhere on its final possession.

Twice the Redbirds had field position inside the UNI 40 in the second half only to be forced to punt both times.

“We faced a little bit of adversity, but they had the ball on the 39 twice and we had a couple tackles for loss and got them out of that and the offense came together and got some yards. It was just a great team effort,” Brinkman said,

Spenver Cuvelier and Riley Van Wyhe led UNI with 11 and 10 tackles. Cuvelier had a pair of tackles for loss.

“We made that play at the end and that was kind of what we were waiting for to help seal the win,” Farley said.

UNI got off to a strong start as Hampton returned the opening kickoff 65 yards from the Panther end zone to the Redbird 35. Six plays later, McElvain faked to Dom Williams and kept it for an easy 11-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead just 3:13 seconds into the game,

After forcing a quick three and out, UNI again drove deep into ISU territory before settling for a 43-yard Matthew Cook field goal.

The Redbirds responded with a long 14-play drive getting a 43-yard field goal of their own, before McElvain made his first mistake throwing into the flat and into coverage with Kenton Wilhoit picking it off and returning it 30 yards for a 10-10 tie at halftime.

The Panthers had just 131 yards at halftime as the Redbirds blitzed frequently and often against UNI’s makeshift, inexperienced line.

McElvain finished just 14 of 33 for 143 yards, but made enough plays in the end to help deliver the win.

“That got after Will,” Farley said. “They started coming and had success coming and he just got out of timing. When he got out of timing the throws were off. The accuracy was off.

“No question it wasn’t one of his better nights, but it is not up to him to make the win. It is up to him to manage the game and it us as a football team to find a way within that system. We did that.”

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No. Iowa 20, Illinois St. 10

Illinois St. 0 10 0 0 — 10

No. Iowa 10 0 0 10 — 20

First quarter

UNI: McElvain 11 run (Cook kick), 11:47. (Scoring drive: 6 plays, 35 yards, 3:13).

UNI: Cook 43 FG, 6:17 (Scoring drive: 8 plays, 50 yards, 3:21).

Second quarter

ISU: Bresnahan 43 FG, 13:41. (Scoring drive: 14 plays, 49 yards, 7:36).

ISU: Wilhoit 30 interception return, 2:22.

Fourth quarter

UNI: Cook 44 FG, 13:03. (Scoring drive: 7 plays, 59 yards, 2:41)

UNI: Hoosman 13 run (Cook kick), 3:23. (Scoring drive: 4 plays, 24 yards, 2:03).

No. Iowa 20, Illinois St. 10

Illinois St. 0 10 0 0 — 10

No. Iowa 10 0 0 10 — 20

First quarter

UNI: McElvain 11 run (Cook kick), 11:47. (Scoring drive: 6 plays, 35 yards, 3:13).

UNI: Cook 43 FG, 6:17 (Scoring drive: 8 plays, 50 yards, 3:21).

Second quarter

ISU: Bresnahan 43 FG, 13:41. (Scoring drive: 14 plays, 49 yards, 7:36).

ISU: Wilhoit 30 interception return, 2:22.

Fourth quarter

UNI: Cook 44 FG, 13:03. (Scoring drive: 7 plays, 59 yards, 2:41)

UNI: Hoosman 13 run (Cook kick), 3:23. (Scoring drive: 4 plays, 24 yards, 2:03).

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Sports Reporter

I’m a Waterloo native who has covered Cedar Valley sports for more than 30 years for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. I’m also a big Cincinnati Reds fan … Go Big Red Machine!

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