CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — The University of Northern Iowa football coach Mark Farley admitted the wind was knocked out of he and his team.
Farley and the Panthers felt they had done enough to earn a seed and a first-round bye in the FCS Playoff field and the team had gathered at Farley's house to celebrate the moment, which would've been first since the playoff field was expanded to 24 teams in 2013.
But when the final four seeds popped up on the TV screen during the FCS playoff selection show it was Montana, Montana State, South Dakota State and Central Arkansas that celebrated.
"It has been a great day with the exception of that," Farley said. "The four teams popped up and I think we all got kicked in the gut a little bit.
"(Our players) did what they were supposed to do. They did what they were asked to do. That is the hard part of it. I thought our schedule put us in a position to earn that seed."
After the shock of the announcement, the thrill of being in the playoffs for the 21st time in school history emerged.
UNI (8-4 overall, 6-2 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference) will host Pioneer League champion San Diego (9-2) in a first-round game Saturday at 1 p.m. With a win, the Panthers would advance to a second-round rematch with South Dakota State (8-4) in Brookings, S.D. on Dec. 7.
"We are not going to lose sleep over it because the call has been made," Farley said of being unseeded. "I was surprised. So, it is now our job to get ready for this football game. It is kind of like an officials' call. When it is made, it is made ... they are not going to change the call."
San Diego is just one of six teams to make the FCS playoffs in each of the last four years joining North Dakota State, SDSU, James Madison, Weber State, and Wofford. The Toreros are 2-4 all-time in the playoffs owning first-round road wins over Northern Arizona (41-10) in 2017 and Cal Poly (35-21) in 2016. A year ago, San Diego lost at Nicholls State (49-30) in a first-round game.
The Toreros outscored their opponents by a 218-point margin (359-141) and they trailed for less than 25 minutes of total game action in that stretch. In fact, San Diego did not trail for the last 272 minutes 15 seconds of its regular season.
The Toreros own the second-best offense in the country, averaging 498.8 yards per game (307.6 passing and 191.2 rushing), and the third-best scoring offense, 41.7 points per game.
USD starting quarterback Reid Sinnett, a native of Johnston, is second in the country in passing efficiency and fifth in total offense. He has completed 229 of 338 passes for 3,341 yards and 32 touchdowns against seven interceptions.
Michael Bandy leads the team with 72 catches for 1,140 yards and 12 scores, while Dalton Kincaid has hauled in 38 passes for 772 yards and eight scores.
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