CEDAR FALLS — Two forced fumbles by Northern Iowa’s defense in the red zone and a pair of missed field goals by Lamar’s Elvin Martinez made the difference in a 16-13 UNI win in the first round of the FCS Playoffs at the UNI-Dome on Saturday.
The Panthers (7-5) took their first lead early in the fourth quarter after an 11-play, 58-yard drive that ended with a 34-yard Austin Errthum field goal. They advance to face No. 6 seed UC Davis (9-2) in the second round next Saturday at 6 p.m. CT in Sacramento, Calif.
“A lot of adjusting to speed,” UNI Coach Mark Farley said about his team’s early 10-point deficit Saturday. “What we did well was calm down, because it was frustrating for the players early.”
Trailing 16-13 in the fourth quarter, Lamar’s 10-play, 42-yard drive stalled at UNI’s 25, bringing Martinez out for a 36-yard field goal attempt. The sophomore kicker — who missed a 42-yard, go-ahead attempt late in the third quarter — sent the game-tying attempt wide right, leaving the Cardinals (7-5) less than three minutes to overcome their three-point deficit.
After taking possession, UNI managed to consume 2:35, leaving Lamar 15 seconds to go 77 yards with no timeouts. On the first play of the desperation drive, Elerson Smith — who had two sacks and three tackles — sacked Cardinals quarterback Darrel Colbert. Colbert was able to get the Cardinals back to the line of scrimmage and spike the ball with one second remaining but a final play hook-and-ladder resulted in a fumble and a loss for the first-time FCS Playoff qualifier.
“We were sitting at 13-13 so I just felt that we had weathered the storm, and that’s kind of what happens in these games is there’s always a rush of momentum and it’s who can sustain (throughout) the game and I thought we had the potential to because of our offensive line,” Farley said. “Because of the way we play defense and I know our special teams is very good.”
Amid miscues, turnovers and costly penalties, points quickly became hard to come by.
Errthum, who made field goals of 21, 44 and 35 yards in the game, combined with Marcus Weymiller and Trevor Allen as the Panthers’ most potent offensive players.
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Weymiller and Allen ran for 128 and 112 yards, respectively, on 47 attempts, effectively beating Lamar at its own game. After the game, Farley complimented wide receivers coach Pat McCann, who for the second consecutive week assumed play-calling duties with offensive coordinator John Bond absent due to family issues.
“It might have been the most well-coached offensive football game adjusting-wise that I’ve been involved with in a long time,” Farley said.