Panthers take down Illinois State 27-10

COLIN HORNING, Sports Writer

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Looking to pick up a signature win against a top 10 FCS opponent, the ninth-ranked Panther football team trekked out to Normal, Ill., to take on No. 7 Illinois State on Saturday, Nov. 2.

UNI came up short in the previous three matchups against ranked Iowa State, Weber State and North Dakota State opponents, but this time the Panthers broke through for their first top-ten FCS win of the season.  The Panthers used their first road win last week at Missouri State to build off of against Illinois State.

“It was a very good football game against a very good football team,” head coach Mark Farley said.  “What I’m most pleased about is our consistency in play. Our defense was very good, and our offense had explosive plays through the game that were timely. It was just another great team win.”

A strong defensive effort and consistent offensive play led to a smooth sailing 27-10 victory for UNI to advance to 6-3 overall.

The Panthers got into the scoring column early in the first quarter with an 11-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Will McElvain to senior wide receiver Jaylin James, capping off a 7-play, 61-yard drive.

Illinois State answered right back on their ensuing drive, moving 66 yards down the field for a four-yard TD pass to knot the score at 7-7. UNI took a 14-17 lead at the end of the first half with a 16-yard TD pass from McElvain to wide receiver Suni Lane for Lane’s first TD as a Panther. 

UNI’s defense held the Redbirds to 210 yards for the game and three points in the second half.  Freshman cornerback Omar Brown added two interceptions for five on the season, anchoring the defensive backfield.

With the defense standing pat, the offense had the pressure of a tough road environment lifted. McElvain and the offense put up 13 more points in the second half, opening up the Panther lead to finish off a crucial 27-10 road victory.

McElvain completed 14 of 28 passes for 189 yards and three touchdowns, along with one interception. The redshirt freshman also ran for 35 total yards on ten carries. Freshman running back Nick McCabe had a breakout game, carrying the ball for 44 yards to lead the Panther rushing attack.

Up next, the Panthers will return to the UNI-Dome on Saturday, Nov. 9 to face off against the 3-6 Indiana State Sycamores. 

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