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UNI edged late in Top-5 showdown

CEDAR FALLS (AP) — A go-ahead touchdown catch by Northern Iowa true freshman and former Fort Dodge Senior High all-stater Tysen Kershaw wasn’t enough on Friday night, as South Dakota State defeated the Panthers in a Top-5 showdown, 24-20.

Mark Gronowski passed for two touchdowns, including a 1-yarder to Pierre Strong with 19 seconds left, to help seal the win for No. 5 SDSU over third-ranked UNI.

Grownowski, a freshman, was 19-of-29 passing for 194 yards and no interceptions. Strong finished with 91 yards rushing on 22 carries and had six receptions for 31 yards.

Zach Heins added 90 yards receiving on five catches for South Dakota State (1-0, 1-0 Missouri Valley Conference).

The teams kicked off an unprecedented spring slate of FCS football games after the fall season was upended by the coronavirus pandemic.

SDSU, ranked No. 5 in the STATS FCS polls, took a 17-7 lead into the halftime after Gronowski scored on a 5-yard run with 1:24 left in the second quarter.

Matthew Cook made field goals of 43 and 35 yards before Will McElvain’s 14-yard touchdown pass to Kershaw gave third-ranked UNI (0-1, 0-1) a three-point lead with 5:59 to play.

Gronowski led a 10-play, 75-yard drive capped when he rolled to his right and hit a wide-open Strong to give South Dakota State a 24-20 lead with 19 seconds left.

McElvain was 19-of-29 passing for 164 yards. Kershaw, the Dodgers’ all-time leading receiver, had two catches for 34 yards.

UNI converted just 2-of-12 third downs and finished with 192 total yards.