CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - The University of Northern Iowa Panthers fell to the No. 17 Illinois State Redbirds, 33-21.
The White Out game in the UNI-Dome featured the Panthers wearing white helmets with their road jerseys.
Illinois State struck first with 9:19 left in the first quarter off a 19-yard run from Cameron Hunt for a touchdown. The Redbirds took the 7-0 lead after knocking 4:32 off the clock for nine plays and 70 yards.
The Redbirds added to the lead with less than five minutes left in the first quarter, giving them a 13-0 lead, but the Panthers spoiled their extra point when Deiondre' Hall blocked the extra point.
The UNI offense got things rolling late in the first quarter and brought the momentum into the second quarter with quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen and Chad Owens linking up for three passes for 41 yards. David Johnson also broke free for a big gain of 39 yards to put the Panthers on the Illinois State 28-yard-line with 10:48 left in the second quarter.
The Panthers had to settle for a 51-yard field goal attempt from Tyler Sievertsen. The kick had the distance, but was wide left of the uprights, giving the Redbirds the ball back with 9:22 left in the half.
The UNI special teams came up big when Chad Gilson blocked an Illinois State punt with 8:05 left in the half. Tim Kilfoy recovered the blocked punt, returning it to the Illinois State 16-yard-line to put the Panthers in scoring range.
Unfortunately on the next play, Kollmorgen's pass was tipped by a Redbird linebacker and intercepted, giving them the ball on the Illinois State 24-yard-line. Illinois State scored on the next play, a 76-yard touchdown pass from Matt Brown to Tyrone Walker, to give them a 19-0 lead after missing their extra point again.
Carlos Anderson continued his dominance on kickoff returns when he returned the Redbird kick 48 yards to the Illinois State 46-yard-line. Johnson followed the play with a 19-yard run to give the Panthers a first down.
Kollmorgen found Owens again for a 13-yard gain to put the Panthers inside the Illinois State red zone with 3:14 left in the second quarter. Kollmorgen put UNI on the scoreboard when he rushed into the end zone for a six-yard score, trimming the Illinois State lead to 19-7.
Varmah Sonie notched his first interception of the season on the next Illinois State drive, returning it for 17 yards to the Illinois State 33-yard-line with less than two minutes remaining. Wes Smith grabbed his first two receptions of the game when he hooked up with Kollmorgen for passing plays of 13 and 11 yards to the three-yard-line.
Owens added to the Panther scoreboard on a two-yard pass for his third touchdown of the season with nine seconds left in the half. UNI cut the lead to 19-14 after going 33 yards in nine plays.
To open the second half, the Panthers grabbed their second interception of the game when Wilmot Wellington notched his second interception of the season. Illinois State was able to answer with their own interception three plays later, giving the Redbirds possession on the Panther 28-yard-line.
The Panthers didn't have to wait long to regain possession from the Redbirds. Illinois State missed a 36-yard field goal attempt just four plays later, giving UNI the ball on the Panther 19-yard-line with 10:16 left in the third quarter.
After a quick three-and-out by UNI, the defense took the field again to keep the Redbirds from another touchdown. The Panther defense forced Illinois State to a third-and-eight situation and eventually to punt.
On the punt return, Sonie would have given the Panthers the lead with a 75-yard touchdown return, but a illegal block on the return took away the score. Owens and Kollmorgen remained in sync in the third quarter, hooking up for an eight-yard and 13-yard gain for two first downs.
Kollmorgen continued to drive the Panthers down the field when he found Isaac Lintz for his first career reception. Lintz's 12-yard catch put UNI on the Illinois State 24-yard-line with 2:35 left in the third quarter. UNI ended the drive with another field goal attempt, but it was wide of the uprights, giving the Redbirds possession on their 20-yard-line.
The Panther defense opened the fourth quarter forcing the Redbirds to a three-and-out. On the UNI offensive drive, Johnson broke free for a 13-yard gain, putting him over the 100-yard rushing mark. Unfortunately, the Panthers turned it over with another interception, giving Illinois State the ball on the UNI three-yard-line.
Illinois State added to their lead with 10:43 left in the fourth quarter on a one-yard score from Darrelynn Dunn, making the score 26-14.
Kollmorgen rebounded off his interception with a 35-yard pass to Sam Rohr to open the next drive. Two plays later, Johnson scored his 12th touchdown of the season on a five-yard run. Johnson's touchdown cut the Illinois State lead to 26-21 with 9:49 left in the game.
Illinois State answered on its next offensive drive with a 49-yard touchdown pass from Brown to James O'Shaughnessy with 7:38 left in the game. The toss to O'Shaughnessy put a cap on the game's scoring.
The Panthers will return to action when they hit the road to take on Western Illinois on Sat. Nov. 3. The game is set to kick-off at 1 p.m. in Macomb, Ill.
Post-Game Notes vs. Illinois State
UNI had several first-time starters on the field today against Illinois State. Tim Kilfoy and Luke Smith both notched their first career starts against the Redbirds.
Sawyer Kollmorgen rushed for his first career touchdown against Illinois State when he rushed for a six-yard gain into the end zone late in the second quarter.
UNI has held Illinois State to only three wins in the UNI-Dome since the series started between the Redbirds and the Panthers. The Panthers lead the series 19-10 all-time and 13-3 in the UNI-Dome.
David Johnson has rushed for 100-plus yards three games in a row. He finished the game against the Redbirds with 118 yards.
Carlos Anderson the UNI record for kick returns in a career as he passed Tyree Talton's career mark of 77 career kickoff returns. Anderson has returned 80 career kickoffs as a Panther.
UNI is now 69-46 vs. ranked opponents since 1985.