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CEDAR FALLS — There may be a few new wrinkles, but on the whole, the University of Northern Iowa football team doesn’t believe Iowa will look much different than what the Panthers have seen on game film.

Dealing with it is another matter.

In simple terms, UNI head coach Mark Farley says his team needs to challenge the Hawkeyes for a full 60 minutes to have a chance in Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. kickoff at Kinnick Stadium.

“You probably can look at the film the same way I do and it is a very sound, very determined team that stays with the plan,” Farley said. “It doesn’t matter who they play, they play hard-nosed football. They wear on you and will continually hit you at the line of scrimmage. That is why you see a lot of games in the fourth quarter where the other teams let it get away from them.

“They know what they are good at and know what they want to do and stay with a plan. You have to give them credit for it.”

The veracity in Farley’s statement lies where the Hawkeyes (2-0) are the strongest ... up front on both sides of the ball.

While young on the offensive side of the ball, Iowa has rushed for 165 of its 314 rushing yards in the second half of its wins over Northern Illinois and Iowa State.

“Up front we have to set the tone,” UNI senior defensive tackle Bryce Douglas said. “Fortunately for us, we see opponents like North Dakota State every year and that is the style they play.

“It starts up front and the d-line has to get off the ball, get off double-teams, fly around and have fun. We are putting it all on us.”

If there is one really imposing group for Iowa, it is its defensive line. The Hawkeyes go eight deep at that position and it has been one of the best in the nation through two games.

Iowa leads the Big Ten and ranks fifth nationally in total defense (199.5 yards per game) and the Hawkeyes’ nine sacks are second only to Arizona State’s 11. Sophomore A.J. Epenesa was named the Big Ten co-defensive player of the week after recording two sacks while helping hold Iowa State to just 19 rushing yards last Saturday.

UNI (0-1) rushed for just 104 yards in its season-opening loss at Montana and had just four first downs in the first half, so the Panthers know they need to be better on the ground and start quicker.

It’s what Iowa did in limiting Iowa State running back David Montgomery to 44 yards last week that really jumped out when Farley watched game film.

“To me they held a great running back to 40 yards,” Farley said. “They have really taken the run game away from both their opponents.”

In the end, however, Farley says UNI has the same motto as Iowa when it comes to playing winning football.

“We have to go play our game just like they play their game,” Farley said. “We are not going to fool them. They are smart coaches. They are smart players. It just comes down to lining up and battling at the line of scrimmage. It always does.”

BIG TEN DEBUT: There were two good things that happened for Douglas when he was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA in January.

The first was the chance to play another year of football. The second is something his mom, Madge, jokingly reminded Bryce about because she figures she should’ve already experienced it.

“’I was happy you played Iowa State those first two years (Douglas played with UNI), but I’m real happy I’m finally going to get to see you play in a Big Ten game,’” recalled Douglas of what his mom told him.

Douglas spent two injury-filled seasons at Illinois before transferring to UNI three years ago.

He committed to Illinois out of Plainfield, Ill., High School. His father, Bruce, was a three-time all-Big Ten point guard for Illinois from 1984-1986, and he was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 1985 and 1986. Douglas’ mom was an Illinois cheerleader.

“It’s my first Big Ten game. I’m excited to be playing inside Kinnick Stadium,” Douglas smiled. “All my family is excited. There are going to be at least 15 of them at the game.

“I’ve got to play well. They said if I don’t they are expecting refunds.”

SERIES WILL CONTINUE: A restriction to ban Big Ten opponents from playing FCS opponents in 2015 was lifted in the off-season and the only reason Iowa was allowed to play this one was it had already been scheduled when the ban was placed.

UNI and Iowa will play again in Iowa City in 2020 and Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz hopes there will be more meetings between the Hawkeyes and Panthers.

I think it’s the right thing to do,” Ferentz said. “And Gary (Barta) and I are same page on that one just like we are on the Iowa State series. It’s good for our state.”

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Sports Reporter

Sports reporter for The Courier

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