In 2014, Northern Iowa snapped the 33-game winning streak of then-No. 1 North Dakota State with a 23-3 win at the UNI-Dome.
Now, five years later, the 10th-ranked Panthers will have an opportunity to snap a 26-game NDSU winning streak at the Fargodome.
Last season, UNI (3-2, 1-0) led the Bison 31-28 entering the fourth quarter before falling 56-31. NDSU (5-0, 1-0) won its seventh national championship in the past eight seasons in 2018 and, despite losing head coach Chris Kleiman (2014-2018) to Kansas State this past offseason, the Bison continue to dominate the FCS.
Here are three things to watch for in Saturday’s game.
1. Redshirt freshman QBs square off
Through five games, UNI head coach Mark Farley continues to speak highly of his developing redshirt freshman quarterback Will McElvain. McElvain has completed 58 percent of his passes, is throwing for 215 yards per game and has eight touchdowns and only one interception.
NDSU redshirt freshman QB Trey Lance is playing beyond his years with a 74-percent completion rate, 177 passing yards and 65 rushing yards per game with 18 touchdowns combined.
2. Run defense is key again
In its past three games, UNI’s defense has allowed 69, 66 and 55 rushing yards. Meanwhile, this week’s game is its second straight against an opponent averaging over 280 yards per game on the ground.
Last week UNI held Youngstown State — which entered the game averaging 296.3 rushing yards — to 55 on 36 attempts. The Panthers utilized their 4-2-5 defense to stop the Penguins, but Lance is a true dual-threat QB, which could complicate UNI’s ability to play its four down-linemen scheme.
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“We have defended the run well, but I think this is a whole different style of rushing attack that we’re up against this Saturday,” Farley said. “We’ve been up against one-back running games — this is a two-back running game. They keep hitting you and then they try to pop one on you.”
3. Emphasizing four quarters
Throughout the Bison’s impressive run that began near the beginning of this decade, their reputation for physical play and wearing down opponents has become unquestioned. NDSU’s 28-point fourth quarter in last season’s win against UNI was an all too real example for the Panthers of how the Bison’s blueprint has become so successful.
“When you play teams like an Iowa, like a North Dakota State, those teams that are consistently good, they always have the demeanor like they’re going to win the game,” Farley said. “They’re always going to make the play to the last play of the game. You have to have great poise in these games and you have to just play the play that you’re in.”
UNI vs. North Dakota State
Kickoff time: 1 p.m. CT
Watch online: ESPN+
Radio: KGYM-AM 1600
Listen online: TuneIn
Line: North Dakota State -21.5
Prediction: North Dakota State 31 UNI 20
The Panthers hit a few big plays on offense, but the Bison — with home-field advantage — get the best of UNI over the game’s final 15 minutes.