Cedar Falls, IA (SportsNetwork.com) - Northern Iowa running back David Johnson has made a career of playing his best games in the biggest games.
The All-American senior saved one of his better performances for the first round of the FCS playoffs Saturday night - totaling four touchdowns and 236 yards from scrimmage - in leading the Panthers to a 44-10 rout of Stephen F. Austin at the UNI-Dome.
UNI (9-4) advanced to a second-round matchup at fifth-seeded Illinois State (10-1) next Saturday in an all-Missouri Valley Football Conference rematch. The Panthers were the only team to beat ISU in the regular season, 42-28 on Nov. 1 in Cedar Falls.
Johnson, an NFL prospect, finished with 152 yards on 23 carries. He wasted no time in taking over the playoff game, breaking free for a 73-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage.
He also scored on a 1-yard run in the final minute of the quarter, then caught a 70-yard touchdown pass from Brion Carnes in the second quarter as UNI built a 30-7 halftime lead.
Johnson capped the Panthers' opening drive of the second half with a 6-yard scoring run.
A pair of SFA turnovers helped UNI to three Michael Schmadeke field goals in a six-minute span of the first quarter. The third field goal gave the junior 27 this season, an FCS single-season record that surpassed the 26 made by Nevada's Tony Zendejas in 1982 and UNI's Brian Mitchell in 1990.
Carnes only completed five passes, but four of them went for more than 30 yards in a 205-yard effort. He also rushed for 46 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The Johnson versus Johnson showdown of running backs didn't materialize as Stephen F. Austin senior Gus Johnson, who entered the game with 1,601 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns, finished with 82 yards on 20 carries. He scored the only touchdown for his Southland Conference squad.