DURHAM, N.H. (AP) – Northern Iowa is going on to the semifinals of the NCAA 1-AA playoffs by hanging onto the ball better than New Hampshire and then just hanging on.

“We converted on our fourth down and shut them down on several occasions. The difference in the second half was turnovers,” Northern Iowa coach Mark Farley said. “They were moving until they got into the red zone and we got some key turnovers.”

Brian Wingert kicked his second game-winning field goal in two weeks and unseeded Northern Iowa upset fumbling No. 1 New Hampshire 24-21 Saturday in the quarter-finals.

The Panthers, 10-3, winless in five previous semifinals, play at Texas State next weekend.

Wingert kicked a 22-yard field goal with 11:50 left and New Hampshire lost three critical fumbles in the last half to ruin any chances of a victory. The Wildcats also managed only 1 of 7 fourth-down conversions.

New Hampshire, 11-2, which spotted the Panthers a 21-0 lead 23 minutes into the game, had pulled even at 21-21 minutes earlier when Ricky Santos threw his third touchdown pass to David Ball, 29 yards, with 1:39 left in the third quarter.

Northern Iowa took the ensuing kickoff at its 39 and drove to the New Hampshire 3, the biggest play a 21-yard pass from Eric Sanders to Justin Surrency to the 3. When New Hampshire stiffened, Wingert took over.

New Hampshire had three more chances, but two ended with incomplete fourth-down passes and a third ended with a fumble. On the last play of the game, from its own 30, Santos completed a pass followed by several laterals that covered the width of the field before the last runner was forced out of bounds at the Northern Iowa 20. But one toss was ruled illegal anyway.

Northern Iowa jumped in front 21-0, scoring first on a 40-yard run by David Horne, who ran for 144 yards on 28 carries. Sanders, who completed 15 of 25 passes for 185 yards, beat a New Hampshire blitz on a 32-yard scoring play to Horne to make it 14-0, and finally Sanders completed three passes for 44 yards to set up Terry Freeney’s 1-yard plunge with 7:03 left in the half.

Meanwhile, New Hampshire, which averaged 42 points a game, reached the Northern Iowa 26, 34, 29 and 18 and came away empty handed until Santos finally hooked up with Ball on scoring passes of 20 and 8 yards to make it 21-14 at the half.

Santos, who had 39 TD passes entering the game, was 27 for 42 for 345 yards, and ran for 106 on 21 carries. Ball, who had caught 21 TD passes, caught 10 passes for 188 yards.

But fumbles did in the Wildcats after halftime. Beside the one in the last quarter, two other drives into Northern Iowa territory were cut short in the third quarter by fumbles. Overall, New Hampshire outgained Northern Iowa, 631 yards to 351.

AP-ES-12-03-05 1708EST


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