Panthers roll into playoffs, knock off Eastern Illinois, 53-17


The UNI football team recorded history with their 200th home win and earned a bid to the NCAA tournament on Nov. 21 as Thanksgiving break began. The Panthers defeated Southern Illinois, 49-28, making their record 7-4, earning them a playoff spot in the last regular season game.

UNI hit full stride late in the season as they scored at least one touchdown each quarter against SIU.

Moving on to their next matchup, UNI hosted Eastern Illinois for the first round of the playoffs. The Panthers were still unable to be challenged for the most part as they trounced “the other Panthers”, 53-17. The game was rough on both sides at first as UNI fumbled on their first possession while EIU then threw an interception on their first drive. EIU, in the red zone, drove in the first score with a one-yard rushing play.

However, this would be the only lead that EIU would see for the remainder of the game. On the next possession, the Panthers drove down the field for 44 yards, concluding with a Michael Schmadeke field goal. In the second quarter, Aaron Bailey connected with Daurice Fountain on a 32-yard touchdown pass. With less than three minutes left in the half, the Panthers set Schmadeke for another field goal.

Thanks to a Makinton Dorleant forced fumble, UNI got the ball back on EIU’s 19-yard line. Smith was able to find pay dirt with less than two minutes remaining. Yet, this was still not the end of the Panthers’ offensive attack in the first half. With the defense able to force a three-and-out, Schmedeke booted another field goal with one second left to end the second half, 23-7.

The second half began with both sides scoring on each possession. UNI gave up the ball on a muffed punt that led to a field goal. UNI retaliated with a 52-yard touchdown pass to Charles Brown on a two-play drive. Later in the third quarter, EIU scored again on a 73-yard drive.

UNI stayed relentless as Fountain scored his second touchdown in the third quarter on a 41-yard reception. On the next possession, Savon Huggins ran in the end zone on a 24-yard handoff. Scmedeke recorded his fourth field goal in the fourth quarter.

To seal the game once and for all, UNI’s defense scored a pick six with four minutes left in the game to bring the final score to 53-17. This marks the fourth straight game where UNI scored more than 40 points consecutively for the first time in over a decade. This win now puts UNI at a 201-51-1 all-time record in the UNI-Dome.

Quarterback Aaron Bailey finished the game with 162 passing yards and a career-high three passing touchdowns. Tyvis Smith rushed for 147 yards and touchdown. This marks his third consecutive game with at least 100 yards. The Panthers hit the road to take on Portland State (9-2) on Saturday, Dec. 5.