CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) – Eric Sanders threw a 24-yard TD pass to Montari Leonard with seven seconds left, leading top-seeded Northern Iowa past New Hampshire 38-35 on Saturday in the opening round of the FCS playoffs.

Corey Williams added 220 yards rushing and three touchdowns for Northern Iowa (12-0), which drove 71 yards in the final 1:16 – without any timeouts – to keep its perfect season alive.

The Panthers will host Delaware (9-3) next week in the quarterfinals.

New Hampshire (7-5), which had trailed for much of the game, took its first lead, 35-31, on an 15-yard touchdown run by Chad Kackert with 1:16 left. At that point it appeared that New Hampshire might get payback for 2005, when the top-seeded Wildcats fell to Northern Iowa at home in the first round of the playoffs.

But Sanders, a senior, calmly led the Panthers to their sixth consecutive first-round win. He hit Victor Williams for a pass that, after two laterals, moved the Panthers to the New Hampshire 24. Sanders got a little help on the game-winnning throw, as Leonard juggled the ball, almost lost it over his shoulder, then corralled it for the game-winning score.

New Hampshire attempted a series of laterals on the ensuing kickoff, but the last pitch by the Wildcats went over the head of receiver and out of bounds.

Ricky Santos, the 2006 Walter Payton Award winner as the top player in FCS, was 26-of-35 passing for 251 yards and two touchdowns for New Hampshire. He led the Wildcats 75 yards for a go-ahead score in the final drive of a record-setting career.

Sanders completed 27-of-36 passes for 314 yards, and Williams broke the school record for rushing yards in the postseason.


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