Brian Wingert kicked a 31-yard field goal with 51 seconds left to cap a fourth-quarter comeback that carried Northern Iowa to a 41-38 victory...

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CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — Brian Wingert kicked a 31-yard field goal with 51 seconds left to cap a fourth-quarter comeback that carried Northern Iowa to a 41-38 victory over Eastern Washington on Saturday night in the first round of the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs.


Down 38-24 with 11 minutes to play, Northern Iowa (9-3) tied it on Eric Sanders’ 8-yard touchdown pass to James Lindgren and David Horne’s 4-yard TD run, which came with 5:22 remaining.


John Hermann’s sack of Erik Meyer for a 13-yard loss then led to a three-and-out for Eastern Washington (7-5) and Northern Iowa took over at its 32 with 3:43 to play.


A pass-interference penalty and Horne’s 28-yard run helped the Panthers move to the Eastern Washington 13 and Wingert made his game-winning kick, deciding a freewheeling affair that produced 987 yards of offense. Neither team punted in the first half, which ended with Eastern Washington leading 28-24.


Horne appeared to be headed for a touchdown on his late run, but he tripped making a cut and fell at the Eastern Washington 17. That turned out to benefit the Panthers because they could run more time off the clock with three more plays before calling on Wingert.


Sanders finished 31 of 40 for 330 yards and two touchdowns, while Horne carried 28 times for 141 yards and three touchdowns. Jason Breeland, who had only 10 receptions coming in, led the Panthers with eight catches for 98 yards.


Meyer completed 25 of 44 passes for 387 yards and four touchdowns, but he was sacked seven times for 59 yards in losses. The Eagles netted only 94 yards rushing in 35 attempts.


“I thought we were in good shape, but to be honest, I never felt like we were in control,” said Eagles coach Paul Wulff. “I felt like we were battling and battling.


“I thought if we had the interception that was dropped that could have sealed it. I thought we could definitely run some time off the clock with a two touchdown lead. It just didn’t happen.”