UNI Looks to Bounce Back in Earliest MVFC Start in Over a Decade
After last week's loss to the Air Force Falcons, Northern Iowa will have its chance to get back in the win column this Saturday, September 10, when they take on the Fighting Hawks of North Dakota.
Per the Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC), this will be the earliest two MVFC teams have faced each other since UNI defeated North Dakota State in the Dome on Sept. 11, 2010.
It's a big game for both teams.
UND is coming off an FBS loss as well, falling to the Nebraska Cornhuskers 38-17 last weekend in Lincoln, and the last thing these two teams want to do is start 0-2 before they get into the thick of their conference schedules. As we've said a multitude of times on Cornstalks and Sports Talk, the MVFC is an absolute bloodbath and is easily the toughest conference in the FCS.
Here are three things to watch heading into Saturday's matchup.
UNI's Run Defense / Tyler Hoosman
In last week's game versus the Falcon's triple-option offense, UNI allowed the most rushing yards in the country. They currently rank dead-last in the FCS with 582 yards allowed.
There are a few ways to look at this.
Air Force is a quality FBS team that runs the ball on nearly every play. To be exact, they ran the ball 62 times of their 68 plays last Saturday. The triple option is conducive to that.
Coach Farley made it clear in the postgame presser, saying the shear amount of yards his team allowed on the ground isn't indicative of what UNI's run defense will be like all season:
That's all the option. It's triple option football. ... They sure as heck know how to run that system, and then they've got that quarterback to pull the trigger.
We'll see if that assessment proves true in this matchup with the Fighting Hawks, who ran the ball 33 times for 175 yards against a porous Nebraska defense.
An added piece to watch as part of the run game for UND is former Panther running back, Tyler Hoosman. Hoosman spent several seasons playing for UNI before he decided to grad transfer and play in Grand Forks. His best year in Cedar Falls came when he led the Panthers in rushing during the 2021 spring season when he ran for 373 yards and six touchdowns over six games.
Last week against the Cornhuskers, he ran the ball ten times for 41 yards and a touchdown.
Another First for Coach Farley
Entering his 22nd year as the head coach at UNI, Coach Mark Farley doesn't experience a lot of firsts in his career anymore.
Last week was the first time the Panthers had played Air Force, and now, this weekend will be the first time Coach Farley will lead his team against the Fighting Hawks on their turf.
The last time these two teams played, UND stole a win over the purple and gold in 2006, taking the victory in Cedar Falls, 35-31. Dale Lennon was the head coach for North Dakota at the time, and the Fighting Hawks weren't a part of the MVFC.
This time around, the Fighting Hawks are led by Bubba Schweigert who has been around since 2014, and UND is a key part of the conference. Last season, Schweigert led his team to a 5-6 record, and his overall record since taking the position is 47-41.
Though Coach Farley has never gone head-to-head with Schweigert when they were both head coaches, the Panthers battled Southern Illinois when Schweigert served as their defensive coordinator between 2008 and 2013. Over that span, UNI went just 1-5 against the Salukis, scoring 24.5 points per game.
During his tenure as the head of the program, the Fighting Hawks have continued their home opener winning streak, taking 35 straight victories at home to start the season. That streak goes all the way back to when the team was an NCAA DII powerhouse.
That New Panther Offense
Last Saturday, we got a minuscule glimpse of what UNI's new-look offense can be going forward. Due to a pile of mistakes (a false-start by Jared Penning on the first drive, a Theo Day pass off the hands of Logan Wolf was intercepted, and a run inside the Falcon's five-yard line by Day resulted in a fumble) and the drastic discrepancy in the time of possession (24:58 for UNI, 35:02 for Air Force), we're definitely missing the full picture as of now.
Check out this thread on Twitter to get a bigger picture:
Even with the mistakes and minimal time with the ball in his hands last week, Day was able to pass for 286 yards and two touchdowns. Expect those numbers to be much bigger as the season progresses, including against North Dakota.
What else to know:
- UNI remains in the Top 25 FCS rankings despite the loss last week. They currently rank No. 24.
- Prior to 2006, the last time these two teams met was in 1978. UNI won that game 35-17.
- Tommy Schuster, UND's starting quarterback is entering his third year as the starter for the Fighting Hawks. In his first full season as the starter last year, he completed 237 passes for 2,493 yards, 13 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Last week against Nebraska, he completed 24 passes for 131 yards and a touchdown.
- UND was expected to be one of the top teams in the country in the 2021 fall season after a 5-2 spring record. The Fighting Hawks finished 5-6 and out of the rankings. All of their FCS losses were by single digits.
- The Fighting Hawks have posted a 100-28 record over 21 seasons in the Alerus Center. Since rising to the Division I level in 2008, UND has posted a 78-75 record.