Panthers avenge Jackrabbits 13-10

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NI ARCHIVES

PATRICK HANSEN, Sports Writer

The Panther defense shined bright once again this season as the Purple and Gold played in a rematch against South Dakota State on Saturday, Dec. 7 for a spot in the quarterfinals.  Despite playing in cold, windy conditions, UNI forced a second-round win on the road to become the first team in the playoffs to knock off a seeded team, winning 13-10.

Three weeks prior, many Panther fans remember falling to the Jackrabbits 38-7 in a game where UNI’s offense couldn’t get the ball moving and gave up four turnovers. The first quarter of the rematch in Brookings started to look like a repeat as the Jackrabbits jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead in a matter of just nine minutes.

Senior running back Trevor Allen said spirits were similar to their previous visit to Brookings, S.D., at the beginning of the game.

“It was pretty much the same as when we played them last time. ‘Hey we’re moving the ball, we’re just kind of shooting ourselves in the foot at critical moments,’ and once we got out of our own way, that’s when things started happening.”

The Panthers put points on the board in the second quarter as Austin Evans forced a fumble on a punt return, which was recovered by Omar Brown.  The Purple and Gold took that momentum down inside the ten-yard line, but settled for three with a 23-yard field goal by Matthew Cook to bring the score to 10-3 with 2:13 remaining in the first half.

UNI wasted no time coming out of halftime with a focus on tying up the game as they drove 75 yards down the field, capping off the first drive with a two-yard rushing touchdown to bring the game to 10-10 with 9:20 remaining in the third quarter. The Jackrabbits attempted a response with a 45-yard field goal, but Elerson Smith blocked the attempt.

“Last minute, we said put Spencer Brown in, our offensive tackle,” Smith said. “Before the snap, we never ran it before with him in it, so we were just trying to find a way to put him somewhere. So, we ended up on the same side and we just tried to get as much knock-back as we could, get our hands up and I ended up being able to get my hands on it.”

As time started to wind down in the fourth quarter, both teams experienced difficulties getting things going, punting the ball back and forth, until the Panthers used a six-minute drive to draw time off the clock, ultimately finishing the drive with the game-deciding field goal, giving the Panthers their first lead over the Jackrabbits this game and this season with 2:10 remaining on the game clock.

Head coach Mark Farley felt good about putting faith in the team and the ball during the game-sealing field goal.

“I just felt that we were in a good position because one, your offense has to score, but two, I felt we were really playing well on defense and I trusted that half of the ball just as much to go out and win the game for us as much as the offense could have.”

The Panthers will be back in action as they travel to Virginia for a fight to get to the semifinals against James Madison.