CEDAR FALLS — After beating South Dakota State on the road last Saturday, No. 6 UNI (10-4) gets its first ever matchup against James Madison (12-1) in its first trip to the FCS quarterfinals since 2015.
The second-ranked Dukes are coming off a 66-21 second-round win over Monmouth (11-3). JMU averages 482.6 yards of offense per game, ranks third in the FCS in total defense and reached a new level of subdivision cachet after winning the 2016 national championship against Youngstown State.
Here’s what we learned at UNI coach Mark Farley’s weekly news conference Monday.
1. Briley Moore’s status
All-America tight end Briley Moore (shoulder) — who’s been out since week 1 — is on a similar plan this week as he was last week, according to Farley.
Moore has been working out in pads recently with limited, non-contact practice participation and he’ll be reevaluated Wednesday, but Farley gave no indication as to the likelihood of him being cleared to play.
“He’s still going through is protocol (and) that’s where I’ve been telling you, no and probabl and all that stuff, I can’t even tell you that right now because (there’s) nothing new this early in the week for any (players) right now,” Farley said. “I think I’ll know by Wednesday, I hope.”
2. Extra homework for both teams
Given the fact that these two teams have never played each other it creates extra homework for both staffs.
“You’ve got to get a feel for them and it took me — I mean I’m sitting here a day and a half later and I’m just starting to get a feel for them now,” Farley said. “The first time through I couldn’t get a bead on them, but it’s starting to kind of fall together now that you kind of see it enough times. And it’s a double-edged sword. It’s the first time they’ve seen us.”
The Dukes’ offense is a balanced attack that slightly leans toward the run. Farley mentioned Monday that JMU is versatile in its personnel groupings, with an ability to use as many as three tight ends while also utilizing empty sets.
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Defensively the Dukes are buoyed by defensive ends John Daka and Ron’Dell Carter. The duo has a combined 25 sacks and 48 tackles for loss this season.
3. Playing a ‘program’
The Panthers are familiar with taking on opponents with more resources and not letting it affect their approach. They do so each regular season against Missouri Valley Football Conference rival North Dakota State and annually in an FBS buy game — this season, a 23-22 triple overtime loss at Iowa State (7-5).
Farley didn’t hide the fact Monday that the Dukes are one of the FCS’ few white-collar programs.
“They are way ahead of the pack as far as resources. Much like North Dakota State,” Farley said. “And then where they’re located, they own that recruiting area for this division. Very strong football team, very strong program.”