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Defensive TDs Give UNI The Victory Over Western Illinois

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CEDAR FALLS Northern Iowa Coach Mark Farley had many questions to answer last week about who would start at quarterback against Western Illinois.

The answer it didn't matter.

UNI's defense outscored WIU with back-to-back interceptions for touchdowns by Ray Mitchell, and the Panthers defeated the Leathernecks, 28-13, Saturday. Mitchell's interceptions gave UNI a 28-3 lead heading into halftime.

"I surprised myself," Mitchell said. "I prepared all week and was able to go out and perform like that. I'm proud of myself and my teammates as well."

Mitchell set a UNI-Dome record with his 116 interception return yards.

"We've been battling all year and changing personnel left and right," he said. "It's different playing with different guys every week. Tonight, we were able to make them comfortable."

UNI quarterback Brion Carnes, who got the start over Sawyer Kollmorgen, completed 4 of 12 for 68 yards and an interception.

Kollmorgen, who was medically cleared to play for the third consecutive week, did not take a snap.

"(Carnes) had a good rhythm and he gives us more freedom with the option attack," Farley said. "He just opens up the run game for David (Johnson) and will pull and run it a few times, so the other team can't just sit in coverage the whole time.

"Sawyer had some symptoms that put him in a tough spot because we have to make the best decision for him. Sawyer could have played, but I think the longer you don't play the guys the better they come back."

After falling behind, 3-0, early in the first quarter, Johnson rushed for touchdowns on back-to-back drives to give the Panthers a 14-3 lead. Johnson finished with 156 yards on 26 carries.

The Panthers had just one first down in the third quarter and five first downs in the second half.

"Coaches always preach to us to just stay relaxed because if you get stressed, bad things will happen," Carnes said. "You never know what may happen, so I just made sure I stayed focused and relaxed when we were struggling."

The Panthers ended the regular season with three straight wins, finishing 7-5 overall and 3-5 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

"I wonder when you look at the scheduling, what are the incentives of playing a strong schedule if you're just going to buy your way into the playoffs?" Farley said. "We got by a Big Sky team on the road and had the best in the Southland Conference come through here. We took the risk of playing McNeese State and a Big Sky trip instead of buying a Division II game at home."

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