CEDAR FALLS — It’s a double team or a down block to fight through play after play.
It’s wave after wave of giant offensive linemen, huge tight ends and sometimes a fullback, too., and don’t forget about their 6-foot-3, 246-pound quarterback.
North Dakota State’s run game is built to break defenses.
Through four games this fall, the fifth-ranked Bison have done exactly that to opponents.
NDSU leads all FCS teams with 1,268 rushing yards in four games (317 per game) and the Bison are averaging 7.1 yards per rush.
Northern Iowa defensive tackle Tim Butcher admits it is a relentless attack.
“Their run game is built to wear you down by the fourth quarter and then they will starting gashing you,” Butcher said. “They wear you down and wear you down before hitting a big one on you and there goes any momentum you’ve created.”
NDSU (4-0 overall, 1-0 MVFC) leads the nation in rushing with 1,268 yards in four games (317 per game) and the Bison are averaging 7.1 yards per rush.
The 6-foot-2, 300-pound Butcher will be critical for the Panthers Saturday as No. 16 UNI travels to Fargo to face the Bison. UNI has not won inside the Fargodome since 2009, having endeared six straight losses.
UNI head coach Mark Farley has placed a lot on Butcher’s shoulders as opponents have spent extra attention to his counterpart at defensive tackle Jared Brinkman, the reigning Missouri Valley Football Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
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With opposing teams double teaming Brinkman, the Panthers needed Butcher to step forward and he has answered the call with 15 tackles, 4 ½ for loss and a fumble recovery.
Farley says Butcher creates energy on the defense because of how he plays.
“Tim was huge in our (last) game,” Farley said. “In our evaluation he is probably the most improved player on this team from when he got here to where he is today.
“How he plays the game. The energy he plays the game and the impact…Jared Brinkman is doing a very good job, but I tell you what, Butch plays all the way to the whistle and he has been a big part of our success on defense because of his play.”
Butcher was a standout at Iowa Central Community College where he played for Kevin Twait, the father of former Panther Cal Twait. Cal Twait also just happened to be teammates with Butcher at Manson Northwest Webster High School, a school located just West of Fort Dodge.
Having Cal Twait at UNI and another former Iowa Central teammate Kendrick Suntken also on the Panther roster it was an easy choice for Butcher to come to Cedar Falls.
“It was great getting to play with Cal again for a season,” Butcher said. “I didn’t know much about UNI before I came here, but it has been awesome. I’ve had a great time. I love all the coaches and the players.”
Butcher and his defensive teammates understand the challenge they will face Saturday and he hopes the unit will have a better experience than his first visit to the Fargodome in 2019, a 46-14 loss that saw the Bison gouge UNI’s defense for 347 rushing yards and three scores.
“I feel we will be up for the challenge,” Butcher said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Butcher says it is a fun atmosphere and should be again Saturday as NDSU is expecting a sellout crowd of 18,000 plus.
“It is loud,” Butcher said. “A lot of trash talk. Not so much from the players, but the crowd. They are right on top of you and are always chirping. You just got to stay locked in. “
While UNI never goes into a game it doesn’t think it can’t win, and based on the Panthers’ recent lack of success in Fargo, both Butcher and Farley say the team heading up North has a different feel.
“For sure,” Butcher said. “Definitely. I don’t know the last time UNI has put up 30 plus points on the scoreboard in three straight games. That is pretty cool to see. When you are a defense playing with a lead it takes so much weight off your back. It allows you to really pin your ears back.”
It is Homecoming at NDSU Saturday, too, which adds another layer to the challenge.
“This is always a challenge,” Farley said. “Then you throw in all the factors of a road game and factors like that and it doubles the challenge.
“We got a good football team. We got a lot of work to do, but we will find out where we are at.”