116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS — After a 34-16 comeback win at Sacramento State, No. 15 Northern Iowa (1-1) hosts St. Thomas (1-0) on Saturday for its home opener.
Picked eighth in the Pioneer League’s preseason poll, the Tommies are coming off a 12-9 comeback win at Division-II Michigan Tech last week. A go-ahead field goal with 59 seconds remaining got St. Thomas its first win as an FCS program after previously playing at the Division-III level.
The game will be UNI’s third matchup all-time against the Tommies and first since 1927. The Panthers lead the series 1-0-1.
Here’s three keys for UNI against St. Thomas:
1. Run, baby, run
Last week’s key to be stubborn with the run paid off for the Panthers as they registered their first 200-plus yard performance since November 2019. Against an opponent that should be easier to handle than the Hornets on the line of scrimmage, all four of UNI’s running backs should see action and the game plan should considerably lean toward a run-first approach.
Avoiding a step backward and building off last week’s performance could be the most important factor — besides a win, obviously — in this week 3 matchup.
2. Welcome to The Valley
St. Thomas’ move up to the FCS came after decades of success at the Division-III level. Tommies coach Glen Caruso has a career record of 133-33, and the program captured seven of the last 10 Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles before its move up this season.
It took a late field goal for the Tommies to get their first FCS win last week, and it came against Division-II Michigan Tech.
In its first matchup against a Missouri Valley Football Conference team, the Panthers should be able to send a not-too-kind “welcome to the Valley” statement as long as their defense performs at a similar level to weeks 1 and 2.
3. Rebuild confidence
While morale is high for the Panthers after last week’s big win — which included Theo Day’s stellar debut at quarterback, more than 200 rushing yards and six takeaways by the defense — kicker Matthew Cook did miss 31- and 48-yard field goals against the Hornets.
The Cedar Falls grad has shown an ability to bounce back before in his career, and Saturday represents his last opportunity before conference play begins to see the ball go through the uprights. An injection of confidence for Cook ahead of MVFC play could prove critical.
UNI vs. St. Thomas
Kickoff time: 4 p.m. (CT)
Line: UNI -44-½
Live stream: ESPN3