Panthers season ends at UC-Davis, 23-16


Courtesy Photo/UNI Athletics

After a season of back-and-forth results, the Panthers ended their 2018 season with 23-16 loss in Davis, Calif. on Saturday.

EMMETT LYNCH, Sports Writer

The UNI football team’s postseason run officially ended this past weekend in Northern California as the University of California-Davis defeated UNI 23-16 in the second round of the FCS Playoffs on Saturday.

The Panthers were able  to rally from a 23-6 deficit late in the second half to keep the game competitive. The game began as a showdown  between kickers with UNI striking first with a field goal by All-Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC) kicker Austin Errthum.

The Aggies followed with a kick of their own, and the game was tied with a pair of early field goals. That is until Errthum kicked it through the uprights to take the lead for UNI with a score of 6-3 with 4:16 left in the first quarter. UC Davis answered with the game’s first touchdown pass to claim the lead 10-6.

The score at halftime stood at 13-6 in the Aggies favor, with UNI’s only points coming from Errthum and special teams. Opening the third quarter, UC-Davis expanded their lead with another field goal by Aggie kicker Max O’Rourke.

The UNI offense struggled to get in rhythm coming out for the second half, resulting in another three-and-out possession. The Aggies were fluid in capitalizing on the player and coaching errors of this game. They followed up with a gritty drive with Aggie running back Ulonzo Gillium scoring a two-yard touchdown to put UC-Davis up 23-6.

It seemed as if the luck of the Panthers was beginning to run out. That is until Trevor Allen answered with a one yard rushing touchdown with six minutes to play in the third quarter.

UNI’s defense came up big with a pair of interceptions in the second half against Aggie quarterback Jake Maier. Panther linebacker Duncan Ferch has been consistent in his playmaking and intercepting this season, leading UNI in career tackles with 103,  and rounding up 10 tackles in the final game of his collegiate career.

Ferch returned his fifth and final interception of the year 63 yards into Aggie territory, giving him a season total of 186 return yards, a new school record.

Defensive back Austin Evans also intercepted a pass from Maier out of the air and went for a return of 20 yards. Both interceptions came with fairly lengthy returns, but the UNI offense failed at converting points off the turnovers.

Errthum followed with a 45-yard field goal with 14:09 to play at the top of the fourth quarter. The game came down to a dramatic drive ending with UNI going for it on fourth down. UNI marched down all the way to the Aggies 35-yard line, but were unable to convert in the final minutes.

Panther quarterback Eli Dunne completed 22 of 40 passes for 273 yards and a pair of interceptions. Allen, along with fellow running backs Marcus Weymiller, and Tyler Hoosman combined for 121 yards on the ground while nine Panthers caught passes led by Allen with five. Terrell Carey caught two passes for a team-high 56 yards. This is a young Panther defense that could have used some experience in the secondary.

UNI ends the season with a 7-6 record after its fourth trip to the FCS Playoffs in five seasons.  UC Davis advances to play Eastern Washington in the FCS quarter-final round.