CEDAR FALLS -- It probably never should've have reached overtime.
Northern Iowa coach Mark Farley took the hit on that one, "bad coaching," he said.
But after giving up a 14-point lead in the final 2 minutes and 5 seconds of regulation, the Panthers to a man were determined the game was going to be won.
Leading that charge was senior receiver Daurice Fountain, whose 13-yard touchdown catch, his third of the game, proved to be the difference as UNI survived Cal Poly, 45-38 in overtime, Saturday in the UNI-Dome.
"I told him. It was a crazy moment," Fountain said. "A funny story. Before we went out to midfield as captains before overtime, I told coach Farley if you put the game into our hands, I'm going to take it."
Facing a 2nd and 10 at the Cal Poly 13, Fountain said the game winning reception was set up when both he and Eli Dunne saw the safeties and cornerback pressing down on coverage, in what he described as a bandit formation.
Checking to a fade to the corner of the end zone, Fountain beat Daniel Fox off the line, then plucked the pass over the top of Frasch's head before landing in the end zone.
"When Eli made that check, it gave me the opportunity," Fountain said of taking the game into his own hands. "I pointed at the DBs and then looked at Eli. He recognized the coverage and that is when he made the check .. pretty nice man."
Buoyed by Fountain's huge play, it not only ignited UNI's sideline, but the crowd 10,246 got loud forcing the Mustangs (0-3) into two false starts, including one before their first snap in overtime.
Khaleel Jenkins, who threw four touchdowns passes in the game, then was stuffed on back to back runs. On third down, Jenkins threw over the head of Kyle Lewis, then on 4th and 19, Lewis had a step on a Panther defender, but Jenkins pressured by a blitzing UNI threw long and the Panthers (1-1) escaped with the victory.
"That is UNI football," Farley said. "When I say that, yeah we gave up some points up in the end, but to do what we did in overtime, and for the players to step up and play the way they did was needed by this football team."
Farley and the Panthers definitely know that it should've never gotten to overtime.
Cal Poly started strong, took its opening drive 73 yards in eight plays getting a 44-yard touchdown pass from Jenkins to Lewis.
UNI then scored 28 second quarter points, including a 52-yard Trevor Allen run that provided the Panthers with their first points, and a 48-yard fumble return for touchdown by Jared Farley and a pair of Dunne touchdown passes, 21 to Fountain, and 31 to Aaron Graham.
Despite all that offense, the Mustangs kept pace as Jenkins threw touchdown passes of 34 and 35 to J.J. Koski and UNI lead only 28-21 at half.
Jenkins finished with 238 passing yards and four touchdowns, the first time since 2009 Cal Poly has had four or more touchdown passes in a game.
"Here is the deal, there are no throws unless you stop that run," Farley said. "And that run puts everybody in the box, puts everybody down and yeah, some guys got away but that is going to happen against that offense.
After Cal Poly pulled to within 28-24 early in the third, UNI appeared to take control as Dunne hit Fountain from 36 yards out for a 35-24 lead with 1:18 left in the third, and Sam Drysdale made it 38-24 with 7:50 remaining in the game on a 45-yard field goal.
The Mustangs wouldn't go away, however.
Jenkins capped off a 13-play, 74-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run with 2:05 left in the game.
Cal Poly then recovered an on-side kick, only to have to re-kick it after being flagged for an illegal formation on the play. On the ensuing kick, Fountain jumped on a loose ball, but UNI went nowhere in three plays and the Mustangs got the ball back at their own 9 with 1:05 left and no time outs.
A Jenkins 17-yard scramble got Cal Poly to the 47 with just more than 10 seconds left. Then UNI had a huge defensive breakdown, letting Lewis get behind it for a 53-yard touchdown catch with five seconds left.
"I would have to go back and look at it," Farley said of what happened. "We probably put them in ... put down bad coaching. I will deal with that. They got behind us and put us into overtime."
Despite a world of momentum appearing to be on Cal Poly 's side, UNI's confidence it would win never wavered.
"I was happy with how the team bounced back," defensive end Adam Reth, who was one of three defensive linemen with 10 or more tackles with 14, said. "We kept saying on the sidelines we are going to win this one. We had faith the entire time we were going to pull it out and that is the only way you can think."