San Diego ends season at UNI

Saturday, November 30, 2019
by San Diego Athletic Media Relations

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – San Diego was within a touchdown with less than three minutes remaining, but #6 UNI held the Toreros to a season-low 213 yards of offense as the Toreros had their season come to an end with a 17-3 loss at the UNI Dome in the first round of the FCS Playoffs on Saturday.

The Toreros (9-3), who wrapped up their sixth consecutive nine-win season, were forced into a season-high four turnovers and only made two trips to the red zone in a loss that ended their nine-game winning streak.

USD’s defense stood tall, though, against one of the top-ranked FCS teams, holding the Panthers (9-4) to 268 yards and only one offensive touchdown. The Toreros forced UNI into eight punts and four three-and-outs to help keep the game within reach.

Marcus Vaivao led the Toreros with 11 solo tackles (14 total) and 2.5 tackles for loss. The redshirt senior also forced two fumbles, one of which resulted in a turnover that set up USD’s only scoring drive of the day.

Vaivao was part of a USD front-seven that limited UNI to 2.4 yards per rush (82 total yards) and totaled seven tackles for loss. It also played a role in forcing Panthers quarterback Will McElvain to a less-than-50% completion percentage (13-of-27).

UNI, which entered the game 10th in the country in turnovers gained, picked off USD’s Reid Sinnett three times and forced a late fourth-quarter fumble to make up the four takeaways. The first interception was a pick-six by Brawntae Wells on the third play from scrimmage that gave the Panthers an early 7-0 lead while the last one came late in the fourth and set up a one-play touchdown drive that made it 17-3 with 2:54 remaining.

Sinnett, a Johnston, Iowa native playing two hours from his hometown, finished the game 22-of-36 with 187 yards.

Emilio Martinez and Dalton Kincaid each had six catches to lead the Torero receiving corps. Martinez totaled 71 receiving yards, including 36 on a screen play in the second quarter that helped set up the lone USD score, while Kincaid had 63.

The Toreros had an opportunity for their first points early in the second when they used a 33-yard drive to put them at the Panthers’ 35-yard line for a 52-yard field goal attempt by Tanner Kuljian. The attempt missed short and wide right and gave the Panthers the ball with 5:48 remaining.

The UNI offense seemed to use the missed field goal as an opportunity to swing momentum as it followed an 11-yard pass to open the drive with a 52-yard completion between McElvain and Isaiah Weston to put the ball inside the red zone for the first time.

However, after a two-yard rush by Trevor Allen, Vaivao forced a McElvain fumble that was recovered by Jacob Bergstrom to quickly give possession back to USD with 3:34 remaining in the second quarter.

The Toreros used the takeaway and marched 73 yards on 13 plays to set up a 33-yard field goal by Brandon Eickert that made it 7-3.

USD’s defense finished the first half by forcing four punts and a fumble on UNI’s six drives while holding it to no offensive touchdowns.

In the second half, neither defense relented as the two offenses combined for five punts and one missed field goal attempt until a 13-play, 68-yard drive by the Panthers turned into a field goal that made it 10-3 with 8:25 left.

The Toreros were unable to create any momentum with the forced field goal as the offense closed out the game with a punt, interception, fumble and turnover on downs.

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