Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State football look ahead: UNI is back as the season-opener

Panthers and Cyclones have split last 4 meetings

Northern Iowa football coach Mark Farley shakes hands with Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell after their game in 2016 at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. (Scott Morgan/freelance)
Northern Iowa football coach Mark Farley shakes hands with Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell after their game in 2016 at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. (Scott Morgan/freelance)
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AMES — Iowa State’s football team has split the last four games against Northern Iowa.

The Cyclones won in 2017 and 2015 and the Panthers won in 2013 and 2016.

Matt Campbell has gone 1-1 against UNI, losing his first game as Iowa State’s head coach to the Panthers, 25-20.

Since his first year in 2016, Campbell has successfully turned the Iowa State football program around, winning eight games the past two seasons, including beating UNI 42-24 in 2017.

The Cyclones don’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon with sophomore quarterback Brock Purdy leading the offense and Iowa State appearing in many “way-too-early” Top 25 rankings.

The Panthers will break in a new quarterback after Eli Dunne’s graduation. Dunne was a two-year starter who got some playing time as a sophomore, as well. He completed 59 percent of his passes while throwing for 2,584 yards and 18 touchdowns last season.

The only quarterback on UNI’s current roster who saw the field last season is redshirt sophomore Jacob Keller from Aurora, Ill. He completed his only pass attempt last season for 18 yards. He also had two rushing attempts for 8 yards.

UNI Coach Mark Farley’s other options to run his offense are freshman Nate Martens, redshirt freshman Will McElvain and senior Christian Ellsworth.

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Farley said at the end of spring football that Keller and McElvain are 1A and 1B.

The Panthers also lost their top running back, Marcus Weymiller. Weymiller rushed for 964 yards and seven touchdowns last season.

UNI does return senior Trevor Allen, who had 611 yards and five touchdowns on 134 attempts. Allen also proved to be a threat in the passing game, catching 25 passes for 256 yards.

Sticking with the passing game, UNI returns its leading receiver in tight end Briley Moore, who caught 39 passes for 536 yards and five touchdowns.

On the defensive side of the ball, UNI graduated its leading tackler in defensive back Duncan Ferch, who had 113 tackles, and its leading pass rusher, linebacker Rickey Neal Jr., who had 8.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss.

Redshirt junior defensive back Korby Sander returns. He was UNI’s second leading tackler with 93. Sander also had three interceptions last season. While Sander looks like he’ll fill Ferch’s shoes nicely, Elerson Smith could replace Neal’s production from a different position.

While Neal made his impact from the linebacker spot, Smith is a hand-on-the-ground pass rusher from the defensive line. Smith recorded 7.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. He also had two pass breakups and two quarterback hurries.

The Panthers have established themselves has a perennial FCS power and if Farley can figure out his quarterback situation, it doesn’t look like UNI will be slowing down in 2019 after a 7-6 season and a win in the FCS playoffs.

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Way-too-early prediction: Iowa State has turned the corner when it comes to FCS teams. While UNI always is among the nation’s best FCS football programs, Iowa State shouldn’t have a problem with UNI this time around.

I have the Cyclones beating the Panthers by at least 17 points and some of the Iowa State true freshmen could get some playing time under their belt in the fourth quarter.

l Comments: benv43@gmail.com

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