Another close loss for the UNI Panthers Saturday evening (Oct. 29, 2016).

Hosting five-time defending FCS national champion North Dakota State at the UNI-Dome, the home squad appeared to be on the cusp of finally getting over the hump and winning a tight game against a top-15 opponent, when a late interception stopped the momentum and allowed the fourth-ranked Bison to leave Cedar Falls with a 24-20 victory over the Panthers.

The interception occurred at the North Dakota State 18-yard line with about two minutes remaining in the game. UNI quarterback Eli Dunne threw a pass to running back Tyvis Smith over the middle. The ball deflected off of Smith's hands and was caught by NDSU linebacker Matt Plank. The turnover sealed the the victory for the Bison and ended a potential second-half comeback by the Panthers, who trailed 21-6 in the third-quarter.

The game was a homecoming for North Dakota State Head Coach Chris Klieman and running back Lance Dunn, Jr., who are both Waterloo natives. Klieman is a Columbus Catholic High School and UNI graduate who played for the Panthers. Dunn prepped at Waterloo West and led NDSU with 118 yards on 23 carries.

Add this game to the long list of those that UNI (3-5 overall, 2-3 MVFC) was in position to win, but came up short. Each of the Panthers' losses this season have been by six points or less and by a combined 21 points.

Dunne finished the game with 20 completions for 216 yards and two touchdowns. Trevor Allen had six catches for 60 yards while Michael Malloy racked up 125 all-purpose yards on the day. Damon Hendrix led the Panthers on defense in his first start at safety, recording a career-high 12 tackles with Karter Schult bringing in seven tackles, including a sack.

North Dakota State (7-1, 3-1) scored first, taking a 7-0 lead with 4:42 left in the first quarter. The Bison capitalized on an interception from UNI, putting them immediately in the red zone. They scored on a one-yard rushing touchdown from King Frazier, ending a four-play, 24-yard drive.

Austin Errthum cut the NDSU lead for the Panthers, kicking a 30-yard field goal with 13:12 on the clock to start the second quarter. The three-point play ended the 14-play, 68-yard drive that took 6:30 off the clock, making it 7-3.

The Bison extended their lead to 14-3 late in the second quarter on a 31-yard pass from Easton Stick to Jeff Illies. The eight-play drive burned 4:53 off the clock for 71 yards.

Errthum knocked in his second field goal of the game with just seconds left on the clock to end the half, cutting the Bison lead to 14-6 at intermission. It was the result of a nine-play, 67-yard drive that last 1:22.

North Dakota State found the end zone again in the third quarter, this time on an eight-yard rush from Chase Morlock. The Bison led 21-6 at the 7:19 mark, when the momentum shifted and UNI began its comeback.

Dunne connected with Jaylin James for the Panthers' first touchdown of the game, a 17-yard pass that ended an eight-play, 74-yard drive that cut North Dakota State's lead to 21-13 with 2:52 remaining in the third quarter.

The Bison extended their lead to start the fourth quarter with a 25-yard field goal by Cam Pedersen. North Dakota State owned a 24-13 advantage.

Dunne and the Panthers wasted no time challenging the NDSU field goal, cutting the Bison lead to just four points with 12:10 left to play in the game. Dunne found true freshman Briley Moore open in the end zone for a four-yard catch, ending a seven-play, 45-yard drive.

UNI had two interceptions in the second half, including Campbell’s fourth quarter pick that appeared to be a game-changer for the Panthers. The North Dakota State defense, however, came up with the game-sealing turnover in the final two minutes, allowing the Bison to hold on for the victory. The interception was the fourth thrown by Dunne, who was making his second start for UNI.

UP NEXT: UNI returns to action on Saturday (Nov. 5) when they travel to Indiana State. Kick-off is set for noon Iowa time from Terre Haute, Ind.


NDSU running back Lance Dunn, Jr. with Head Coach Chris Klieman in the background. Both are Waterloo natives.
(Photo By: Elwin Huffman - Waterloo Broadcasting)