DAVIS, Calif. – Junior quarterback Jake Maier completed 28 of 42 passes for 310 yards while senior wide receiver Keelan Doss hauled in nine catches for 137 yards, helping UC Davis to a 23-16 win over Northern Iowa in an NCAA Football Championship Subdivision second-round contest at Aggie Stadium in front of 8.306 fans Saturday night.
The Aggies improve to 10-2 for the year and will face Big Sky Conference rival Eastern Washington in next Saturday’s quarterfinal. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. PST at Roos Field.
Junior kicker Max O’Rourke kicked a career-high three field goals while junior tight end Wesley Preece and redshirt freshman running back Ulonzo Gilliam each added touchdowns for UC Davis offensively. Four Aggies — Devon King, Isiah Olave, Mason Moe and Quincy Bennett – each had seven tackles to pace the Aggies on the defensive end. Sophomore Erron Duncan and senior Vincent White both had interceptions.
UC Davis faced a 6-3 deficit late in the first half, with both teams only managing to put field goals on the scoreboard: one by O’Rourke, two by Panther senior Austin Errthum. However, the Aggies rolled off 23 unanswered points, starting with Preece’s four-yard touchdown from Maier in the final minute of the opening quarter.
Two O’Rourke field goals in the second frame then Gilliam’s two-yard plunge midway through the third provided UC Davis with a 23-6 margin.
However, it was a play that took place prior to O’Rourke’s final field goal, which sailed through the uprights when time expired at the end of the first half, which pushed the Aggies’ lead to 16-6, that set the tone for the rest of the evening.
Starting on its own 35, with 2:57 left until the break, UC Davis marched down the field, but faced fourth and 10 on UNI’s 36 with 16 seconds left in the half. Faced with numerous decisions, Aggie head coach Dan Hawkins chose to go for it, much to the delight of the fans in attendance.
That gamble paid off when Maier and Doss connected for 31 yards, which pushed the Aggies to UNI’s 5-yard line with a few ticks remaining.
On that play, Maier threw the ball along the near sideline, Doss simply out-jumped the multiple Panther defenders and landed on the turf with the ball. As athletic as that catch was, it was Maier’s perfect throw that set up his teammate since he was the only one who could have made a play in the first place, since the ball would have drifted out-of-bounds had Doss not snared that pass.
UNI answered with a one-yard Trevor Allen scoring run with six minutes left in the third, then Errthum’s third field goal — this time for 45 yards — brought UNI to within one possession with 14:09 remaining in the fourth.
Neither side were able to score beyond that point. Each team failed on field goal, then a Moe pass breakup stopped the Panthers on downs with 2:05 left in the contest. With no UNI timeouts remaining, UC Davis knelt on three straight plays to expire the clock.
Doss’ 137-yard performance extends his school record of 100-yard games to 18. Tehran Thomas led UC Davis on the ground with 87 yards on 13 carries.
For UNI, senior quarterback Eli Dunne threw for 273 yards while Allen rushed for 62 net yards. Bryce Flater was one of three Panthers with 11 tackles and had five for losses of 11 yards.