Defense lifts Northern Iowa by San Diego 17-3 in FCS opener

CEDAR FALLS, (AP) — Brawntae Wells returned an interception for a touchdown early in the first quarter, Christian Jegen sealed the game with a pick late in the fourth quarter and Northern Iowa defeated San Diego 17-3 in the first round of the FCS playoffs on Saturday.

Jegen went 52 yards the other way with a Reid Sinnett passing attempt and Trevor Allen scored on a 7-yard run on the next play to seal the defensive battle.

The Panthers (9-4) play at seventh-seeded South Dakota State (8-4) next weekend. Northern Iowa lost at South Dakota State 38-7 two weeks ago.

Northern Iowa finished with 268 yards to 213 for the Pioneer League champion Toreros (9-2), who had their nine-game winning streak stopped. UNI, runner-up in the Missouri Valley Conference, is making its 21st playoff appearance while San Diego, which averaged 498.8 yards and 41.7 points per game, was appearing for the sixth time.

Sinnett, from Johnston, Iowa, was 22 of 36 for 187 yards and three interceptions. The Toreros, who also lost a fumble, got a field goal in the closing seconds of the first half, capping a 73-yard drive.

Will McElvain was 13 of 27 for 186 yards for the Panthers. Northern Iowa had a field goal in the fourth quarter to end a 68-yard drive.

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