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College Football: UNI falls to No. 1 South Dakota State, 31-28

CEDAR FALLS - UNI battled down to the final snap of the football on Saturday as the Panthers' upset bid of No. 1 South Dakota State fell short in a 31-28 loss at the UNI-Dome on Senior Day.

CEDAR FALLS – UNI battled down to the final snap of the football on Saturday as the Panthers’ upset bid of No. 1 South Dakota State fell short in a 31-28 loss at the UNI-Dome on Senior Day. The Panther faithful also celebrated Military and First Responders throughout Saturday’s contest.

Quarterback Theo Day threw for a pair of touchdowns and ran for another with 270 passing yards, but was sacked 5 times in the UNI loss. Vance McShane notched 62 rushing yards with a first quarter score, while Sam Schnee pulled in 69 receiving yards. Desmond Hutson and Logan Wolf each were on the receiving end of Day’s two touchdown passes in the second and third quarters respectively.

On the defensive side of the ball, Korby Sander led with a career-high 14 tackles for the Panthers, while Spencer Cuvelier notched 13 tackles. Bryce Flater tallied a season-best 11 tackles, as Benny Sapp III recorded his fourth interception of the year coming in the final period of play.

South Dakota State struck first on its opening possession with a 23-yard field goal by Hunter Dustman. Following Day’s first interception in the last five games, Vance McShane put the Panthers on the board, breaking off a 34-yard run for his second touchdown of the season to give UNI a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter.

The Jackrabbits scored on each of their next two possessions on a one-yard run by Isaiah Davis and a 14-yard pass from Mark Gronowski to Jadon Janke to put SDSU ahead 17-7. UNI’s offense responded as Day connected with Hutson on a 22-yard pass, Hutson’s fifth touchdown reception of the season. SDSU capped the first half with a 45-yard field goal from Dustman as UNI went into the locker room trailing 20-14 at the break.

South Dakota State capitalized at the start of the third quarter, driving down the field in 10 plays, with the possession being capped by a 16-yard pass from Gronowski to Amar Johnson for a touchdown, followed by a successful two-point conversion. The Panthers responded in kind with Sergio Morancy bringing UNI into striking distance on a critical 53-yard reception, setting up a 21-yard scoring pass from Day to Wolf.

The Panther defense forced a pair of SDSU punts in the late third period and into the fourth quarter before Sapp picked off Gronowski with just under 10 minutes to play. Converting on a fourth and six at the Jackrabbit, Day took it himself in for a two-yard rushing touchdown to tie the game at 28 with 4:41 remaining.

UNI was able to force a South Dakota State punt with just over two minutes remaining, but the Panther offense was unable to move down the field. SDSU marched down to the UNI 18-yard line following a punt, and aided by a leaping penalty against the Panthers, was able to kick the game-winning 26-yard field goal on an untimed down.

Place kicker Matthew Cook set a new UNI school record with his 115th consecutive made PAT kick, passing Tyler Sievertsen (2010-13) for the most in school history (114).
UNI and South Dakota State have now split each of the last 10 meetings, with the program’s alternating wins since 2015. The road team has also won 8 of the last 11 matchups.
The Panthers are 95-78 against ranked FCS opponents under head coach Mark Farley.
During the Mark Farley era (since 2001), UNI is 61-15 in games played in the month of November.

The Panthers will take their bye week next Saturday before returning to action on Nov. 19 for the final game of the regular season at South Dakota. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. CT at the DakotaDome. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ and the Panther Sports Radio Network.

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