VERMILLION, S.D. — Twenty-one points off turnovers. A defense that bent but rarely broke. Four touchdown passes by Eli Dunne.
What did those ingredients mean for the Northern Iowa football team?
It was plain and simple Saturday for the Panthers at the Dakota Dome, a much-needed Missouri Valley Football Conference road win over 24th-ranked South Dakota, 42-28.
UNI (3-3 overall, 2-1 MVFC) held off an early push by the Coyotes and then a series of plays turned the game in favor of the Panthers.
Trailing 13-6 with 6 minutes and 24 seconds left in the second quarter, UNI drove 75 yards in 11 plays, getting a 9-yard swing pass from Dunne to Marcus Weymiller to take a 14-13 lead with 58 seconds left to halftime.
On the ensuing kickoff, Zac Kibby drilled Coyote kick returner Wesley Eliodor, causing a fumble that was recovered by Alphonso Soko and returned to the USD 4. Three plays later, Dunne dove over from the one and UNI led 21-13 at the half.
Then after a sluggish third quarter that saw USD tie the game after a 14-play, 94-yard drive and a two-point conversion, UNI quickly responded.
A 25-shuttle pass to Deion McShane and a 15-yard Trevor Allen run sparked a five-play, 60-yard drive with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Dunne to Briley Moore for a 28-21 lead with 42 seconds left in the third.
Then in a span of nine seconds, the Panthers lead jumped to 42-21.
First, an Xavior Williams interception deep inside Coyote territory set up a quick strike and score as Dunne faded a 25-yard pass to Nick Fossey one play later with 11:35 left in the fourth.
The game was then won on USD's next play as Elerson Smith beat the Coyotes' left tackle, chased down USD quarterback Austin Simmons and stripped the ball from him. Brawntae Wells then beat a handful of Coyotes to the ball, batted it out in front of him and recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown and all-of-a-sudden it as 42-21 with 11:24 left in the game.