Visions of a top-8 seed and first round bye in the FCS playoffs vanished for No. 13 Northern Iowa Saturday afternoon against Illinois State, as a 27-yard touchdown pass by Jackson Waring to Austin Nagel in overtime sent the Redbirds past UNI, 17-10, at Hancock Stadium.
Waring’s TD pass to Nagel on the first possession of overtime left the Panthers (5-4, 3-3) with an opportunity to draw even, but Theo Day’s pass on 4th and 7 from the Redbirds 10-yard line was too low for Bradrick Shaw to handle.
“There’s no question it’s disappointing and there’s no excuses,” UNI coach Mark Farley said. “We didn’t make enough plays to win the game. There was no rhythm and with no rhythm there’s no excitement.”
Before Day’s final attempt that fell incomplete, Deion McShane was part of two missed opportunities that highlighted a game filled with them.
On 3rd and 7 at the Illinois State 10-yard line in the overtime period, Day’s pass for the junior receiver, that would’ve resulted in a first down, went through his hands.
In the fourth quarter tied at 10 with just over a minute to play, McShane’s 69-yard punt return to the Redbirds one yard line was called back on a block-in-the-back penalty on Stefan Black.
Trailing 10-0 entering the fourth quarter, UNI’s offense came out of hibernation with a 13 play, 53-yard drive that ended in a 27-yard Matthew Cook field goal.
After the field goal, UNI’s defense — which held the Redbirds to just 164 total yards — forced two three-and-outs to give its offense opportunities to tie the game.
On the second play of its only touchdown drive Day connected with Isaiah Weston — who had a game-high 142 yards receiving and five catches — in the middle of the field and the junior shook by a defender and ran over 40 yards for a 60-yard gain to the eight yard line. Two plays later, Day found Sam Schnee in the back of the endzone for a four yard touchdown to tie the contest.
“We just gave away too many opportunities in the first half,” Farley said. “We got inside the 40 three times and got ourselves backed up and we needed those points in the first half.”
The Panthers played from behind from the four minute mark of the first quarter when Day — who finished 15-30 with 252 yards and a touchdown — threw an interception that Clayton Isbell returned 40 yards for Illinois State’s only touchdown of the game.
The Redbirds defense (4-5, 2-4) limited UNI to only 63 rushing yards on 42 carries. Penalties were also an issue for the Panthers, collecting eight of them for 60 yards.
“We let (the officials) be a part of the game and they shouldn’t be a part of the game,” Farley said. “But, we let them because of how we played.”
UNI travels to No. 17 Missouri State (6-3, 4-2) next Saturday for a 2 p.m. kickoff at Robert W. Plaster Stadium.