The Score – Northern Iowa (10-4) beat No. 7 seed South Dakota State (8-5) 13-10 in the second round of the FCS playoffs.
Story Line – Behind it stout defense, UNI avenged a 38-7 loss to SDSU in the regular season, taking the lead for the first time on Matthew Cook’s 18-yard field goal with 2:10 remaining. The game-winner capped a 12-play, 80-yard drive.
Game Ball – It would be unfair to distinguish one UNI defender, so credit the entire unit, which shut out the Jackrabbits after their first two possessions and allowed only 89 yards in the second half. Three different Panthers had first-half takeaways and three different players had sacks. Defensive end Brawntae Wells had one of each.
Key Stats – The Panthers’ time of possession was a decisive 36 minutes, 24 seconds, and the advantage was more than 12½ minutes in the middle two quarters when they scored twice to tie the game 10-10. With SDSU’s two-time 1,000-yard rusher Pierre Strong Jr. still sidelined, the Jackrabbits managed only 53 net rushing yards.
The Takeaway – Defense has been UNI’s calling card this season and it’s carried into the playoffs. Defensive coordinator Jeremiah Johnson’s unit has allowed 10 or fewer points in six of its last seven games – all but the loss at SDSU. Also, senior running back Trevor Allen (90 rushing yards) is on a nice run – pun intended – scoring both of UNI’s offensive touchdowns in the playoffs and four in a three-game losing streak.
Up Next – Northern Iowa will travel to No. 2 seed James Madison (12-1) for a first-time meeting in the quarterfinals next weekend.