Slow start dooms UNI as they fall to South Dakota 34-21

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  • UNI quarterback Theo Day completed 25 out of his 35 pass for 300 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

  • An FCS top-25 matchup took place at the UNI-Dome on Saturday, with the 21st-ranked South Dakota Coyotes edging the 16th ranked Panthers 34-21

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A slow opening half spelled trouble for the 16th-ranked Panthers, who couldn’t complete a comeback attempt in the second half on Saturday against the 21st-ranked South Dakota Coyotes at the UNI-Dome. After going scoreless for the first two quarters, the Panther offense had a much better second half. However, it wasn’t enough, as miscues and big plays from their opponents resulted in the Panthers falling to the Coyotes 34-21.

The Coyotes won the coin toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff; therefore they got the first shot at things offensively. However, the offense stalled and they were forced to punt. UNI also couldn’t get the ball moving, punting it back. The teams traded punts again, but UNI’s punt was blocked from inside their own endzone, giving USD the ball at the Panthers’ 13-yard-line. Two plays later, South Dakota’s Carson Camp connected with Vincent Starling from five yards out to take a 7-0 lead.

On the first play of the Panthers ensuing possession, quarterback Theo Day’s pass was deflected and intercepted, again giving South Dakota good field position, this time at the UNI 20. Coyote running back Travis Theis took advantage of the mistake, running in a touchdown from four yards out to extend the lead to 14-0 to end the first quarter.

After three more punts, two from UNI and one from South Dakota, the Coyotes extended their lead when Camp threw his second touchdown of the day, this one a nine yard strike to JJ Galbreath, to take a 21-0 lead. A 31 yard field goal from Mason Lorber as time expired gave South Dakota a 24-0 lead going into halftime.

After a stagnant first half, the Panther offense came alive on the third play of the third quarter when Vance McShane broke off a 62 yard touchdown run to put the Panthers on the board. A three-and-out from the defense gave the Panthers the ball back quickly, and they again capitalized when Day connected with Sam Schnee for a 28 yard touchdown, bringing the Panthers within 10 at 24-14. However, a field goal and a touchdown later in the quarter by South Dakota extended their lead to 34-14 entering the fourth.

The Panthers found the end zone again late in the fourth quarter when Day connected with Sergio Morancy for a 20 yard score. The pass was originally ruled incomplete, but further review found that Morancy had gotten a foot in bounds. Matthew Cook’s onside kick attempt was recovered by the Coyotes, and the Panthers would lose by a final of 34-21.

It was an up-and-down afternoon for Day, who completed 25 of his 35 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns, but also had two interceptions. McShane was the leading rusher, carrying the ball four times for 65 yards, 62 of which came on his breakaway touchdown run. Quan Hampton was Day’s biggest target. He caught nine passes for 108 yards.

Spencer Cuvelier was the anchor of the Panther defense. He was all over the field, collecting a total of 19 tackles. Jared Brinkman and Bryce Flater also totaled double digit tackles, finishing with 14 and 12, respectively.

With their second straight loss, both to ranked teams, the Panthers fall to 3-3 on the year. They will be on the road next Saturday, Oct. 23, traveling to Brookings to take on South Dakota State. They will return home in two weeks on Oct. 30, to take on Southern Illinois.