Late flag dooms Panthers vs No. 1 SDSU

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  • Theo Day (12) passed for 270 yards on Saturday with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Day also ran for a touchdown in the 31-28 loss.

  • Korby Sander (5) finished with career-high 14 tackles in UNI’s 31-28 loss to No. 1 South Dakota State on Saturday.

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BEN LAHART, Sports Writer

UNI suffered a heartbreaking loss to No. 1 South Dakota State last weekend after a last second field goal was made as time expired, settling the score at 31-28.

The first quarter served to be less exciting than the rest of the game resulting in only three combined points. The Panthers started with a quick three-and-out leading to a 23-yard field goal for the Jackrabbits on their ensuing drive. UNI’s next drive showed a little more promise before a Theo Day pass was tipped and intercepted by SDSU at their own 27-yard line.

A UNI defensive stop got the ball back for the offense leading to the Panthers first points of the game. The five-play, 86-yard drive was capped off by a 34-yard touchdown run by Vance McShane. This gave UNI their first lead of the game, 7-3. The Jackrabbits followed with a 75-yard touchdown drive of their own, scored by running back Isaiah Davis from one yard out. Another three-and-out totalling in -10 yards resulted in another punt by the Panthers. A good return by SDSU led to a two-play touchdown drive including a 22-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Mark Gronowski. SDSU led 17-7.

Penalties spoiled the next two drives with two straight punts. As the first half began to wind down UNI went on an eight-play, 77-yard drive resulting in a 22-yard touchdown pass from Day to Desmond Hutson. With under two minutes left in the half, SDSU completed an 11-play, 52-yard drive ending in a 45-yard field goal as time expired. The halftime score sat at 20-14 in favor of the Jackrabbits.

SDSU started the second half with a nine-play, 72-yard drive resulting in a 16-yard touchdown run. After a successful two-point conversion, SDSU led 28-14. UNI’s first drive of the second half started off with a dropped deep pass to Sergio Morancy that would have resulted in a 35-yard gain. Morancy made up for it on the next play, catching a 53-yard pass to move the chains. A 21-yard touchdown pass to Logan Wolf put the UNI deficit at just seven points with 8:33 remaining in the third quarter. 

Both offenses took a step back as the next three drives resulted in punts, leading to the second tipped ball interception thrown by Day. Two more drives ending in punts, sent the contest into the fourth quarter with the score still sitting at 28-21. The following SDSU drive turned the tides for the game with an interception by Benny Sapp III on the first play. This gave the Panthers the ball on their own 48-yard line.

During this nine play drive, UNI found themselves in a hard spot. Facing fourth down, Day completed his third straight pass for 14 yards to Deion McShane resulting in a first down at the SDSU 10-yard line. Day kept the ball on a 2-yard touchdown scramble to tie the game at 28-28.

Two more drives ending in punts led to the Jackrabbits and the game’s final drive. The drive started with good field position after an excellent return. With two seconds left in regulation, SDSU lined up for the game winning kick before the kick was missed to send the game to overtime. However, a controversial leaping penalty was called giving the Jackrabbits another final shot at the win. On first and goal, from the UNI nine yard line, and with zeros on the clock, SDSU drilled the 26-yard field goal to win the game 31-28.

Day finished with 270 passing yards and three total touchdowns in the loss. Sam Schnee led the team in both receptions and yards, catching four passes for 69 yards. The two touchdown passes went to Hutson and Wolf. Vance McShane led the team in rushing yards with 62 while adding on a touchdown run.

The UNI defense saw three players with double digit tackles including Korby Sanders’ career-high 14. Spencer Cuvelier finished with 13 and Bryce Flater had 11. Sapp’s fourth quarter interception accounted for his fourth of the season. Matthew Cook’s four PATs tie him for second in MVFC history for consecutive PATs made in a career. Penalties were a huge part of the story in this game. Together, the two teams totalled 18 penalties for 120 yards, with three penalties resulting in first downs.

UNI’s final game of the season will be played two weekends from now. The Panthers will travel to Vermillion, SD to play the University of South Dakota on Saturday, Nov. 19. It will also be available to stream on ESPN+.