CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa’s five-loss football team not only received an at-large bid to the FCS playoffs on Sunday, it also got a home game.
The Panthers (6-5, 5-3) will host Lamar (7-4, 6-3) Saturday at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m.
The Missouri Valley Football Conference received just three bids and the Panthers beat out a four-loss Indiana State team to nab the conference’s last spot. Working in UNI’s favor was a resume with the FCS’ No. 1 strength of schedule along with wins over three ranked teams, most notably a Week 8 victory over then-No. 2 South Dakota State.
At Sunday’s news conference, UNI Coach Mark Farley said there was plenty of anxiety watching the reveal of the 24-team field.
“I was good until the (selection) show started,” Farley said of his nerves. “Everybody told (us) that we were in good shape — and all the prognosticators we were in on every one. I was just more reserved because we’ve lost out on this bid many, many times with good football teams over the years. When we came up on the other side of the bracket it was probably one of the better announcements that I’ve been around because it was a surprise and it was (exciting).”
Lamar, which finished third in the Southland Conference, will be experiencing its first ever FCS playoff game. The Cardinals have never played at the UNI-Dome, but the two schools have matched up once before. In 1964, the Panthers defeated Lamar 19-17 in the Pecan Bowl.
The Cardinals boast the FCS’ 13th-ranked running game and will enter Saturday’s game on a six-game winning streak. Farley said Sunday he has yet to do any homework on Lamar, but noted how the amount of playoff experience on his team gives everyone confidence.
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“They’ll know what to expect this week,” Farley said of the Panthers. “They can relate that to the younger players, but it’s still a different team. We already know the routine. Particularly when we get to play a home game.”