For the first time in 15 years, the Portland State Vikings played in an FCS college football game. With the reward being the sixth seed, they were given a first-round bye and extra time to prepare for their opponent, the University of Northern Iowa Panthers. The Panthers were red-hot coming off a dominant win against Eastern Illinois, with a score of 53–17 and were looking to keep the momentum against the Vikings. The game was exposed with a vast amount of hype, and it caught the attention of former PSU running back D.J. Adams.
“I miss playing in Portland, I miss the atmosphere of the city,” he said.
Northern Iowa got off to a strong start, scoring the only points in the first quarter. Panthers running back Tyvis Smith would score on a three-yard run and the extra point was made by Michael Schmadeke to put the Panthers up 7–0. The Vikings’ only points of the first half came in the second quarter when junior kicker Jonathan Gonzales made a 32-yard field goal. The run game of the Panthers would strike again, this time from quarterback Aaron Bailey, who provided a 61-yard touchdown run for the Panthers.
The Vikings were down but not out. They started the third quarter strong as Viking quarterback Alex Kuresa connected with wide receiver Chase Loftin to bring the Vikings within six points, with the score at 16–10. The Vikings were looking to make a comeback, but the rushing attack from Northern Iowa was too strong. In the early minutes of the fourth quarter, UNI quarterback Aaron Bailey found the end zone on a 69-yard touchdown run to extend their lead 23–10.
The Vikings would still fight to stay in the game as PSU running back David Jones provided the Vikings with a nine-yard touchdown run to bring PSU within six, making the score 23–17. As the Vikings were gaining momentum, it was shortly taken away, as UNI running back Smith would find the end zone again, this time on a 59-yard run to seal the deal.
The final score of the game was 29–17, with UNI awarded the victory. According to GoViks.com, the Panthers finished the night with 462 yards of total offense to PSU’s 317. UNI’s Bailey and Smith both rushed for over 200 yards each, Bailey having 26 attempts for 218 yards and Smith having 21 attempts for 207 yards. Kuresa finished the day 78 rushing yards on 14 attempts and 8–22 passing with one touchdown and two interceptions. Patrick Onwuasor led the Vikings in tackles, recording 10 of the team’s tackles. UNI’s Jared Fairly would lead all players, with 12 tackles.
UNI advances to the quarterfinals, where they’ll face off against North Dakota State. PSU’s season officially came to an end as they finished 9–3.