116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa’s FCS playoff chances were dealt a gut-punch Saturday afternoon, as Jason Shelley’s 55-yard touchdown pass to Naveon Mitchell with less than a minute remaining sent Missouri State to a 34-27 win.
“I don’t know what to feel anymore,” UNI Coach Mark Farley said. “I feel sorry I didn’t get (the defense) the right call to end the game.”
Trailing 27-13, UNI quarterback Theo Day — who finished the game 17-of-30 passing for 238 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions — shook off two first-half giveaways to lead a late comeback.
An eight play, 77-yard drive included a 15-yard completion to Sam Schnee, a 16-yard connection with Isaiah Weston and a 25-yard scramble from the sophomore QB. After a Missouri State pass interference penalty on third-and-10 at the MSU 17, Day threw a pinpoint pass to Deion McShane for an 8-yard touchdown to get within one score.
“(Theo) kept his poise. He stayed in the pocket. He ran for first downs. You saw the competitive edge that he has to compete all the way to the final throw,” Farley said. “I think that’s what you saw even in the way Deion caught the (touchdown).”
After a failed onside kick attempt, the UNI defense drove Missouri State (7-3, 6-2 MVFC) backward 15 yards in three plays, forcing a Bears punt from their own 32.
With 3:55 left, the Panthers decided to go after Blake Burkett’s punt and blocked the attempt. Sean Wendel recovered the block at the Bears’ 32 and, five plays later, Day again connected with McShane, this time for an 18-yard score, to tie the score at 27 with 2:14 to play.
“Any loss is a stinging loss and this one is heartbreaking because we battled back, we came here short some players, but these guys battled their butts off to win that football game,” Farley said. “It stings a lot because we had a chance to win that game with how we played that fourth quarter.”
Shelley completed 22 of 33 passes for 320 yards and the game-winning TD to Mitchell.
First-half turnovers helped create UNI’s deficit.
For the second consecutive game, Day threw a first-possession interception and the early turnover resulted in a field goal.
The Panthers’ narrow loss to the Bears came amid a number of injuries.
“It’s not on my mind because we’re in a business where you can’t have excuses,” Farley said. “It was just unfortunate that we have the numbers out that we have out right now.”
UNI (5-5, 3-4) hosts Western Illinois (2-8, 2-5) for its regular season finale at 1 p.m. Saturday.