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UNI has to find way to slow NDSU rush attack

CEDAR FALLS – Something will have to give Saturday when 16th-ranked Northern Iowa travels to fifth-ranked North Dakota State for a 1 p.m. Missouri Valley Football Conference showdown.

The key to the game will be the Bison’s bulldozing ground game against the Panthers swarming and stout defensive front seven.


Northern Iowa linebackers Spencer Cuvelier (41) and Riley Van Wyhe (47) tackle Youngstown State running back Jaleel McLaughlin Saturday during the Panthers' 34-7 win at the UNI-Dome.

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.

UNI (3-1 overall, 1-0 MVFC) ranks 11th in the country in rush defense allowing 80 per game, but against FCS opponents, the Panthers are allowing just 60.6 yards per game and 1.90 yards per rush.

Dominic Gonnella leads the Bison with a 68.8 per game average, and quarterback Quincy Patterson has rushed for 206 yards. NDSU will also substitute in four other running backs.

Gonnella, Patterson and Hunter Luepke are inside-the-tackle power threats in the run game, while TaMerick Williams, Jalen Bussey and Kobe Johnson have home run hitting ability.

Three of the six have hit for touchdowns of 50 or more yards – Gonnella (75 against Albany), Patterson (52 against Valparaiso) and Bussey (72 against Valpo).

“That’s a fresh back ... you’re going to get a fresh back coming at you and a different style of back coming at you every down,” UNI head coach Mark Farley said.

NDSU’s approach to using multiple backs has been mirrored by UNI so far this season as the Panthers have rotated Dom Williams, Bradrick Shaw, Vance McShane and Tyler Hoosman.

In three games against FCS opponents that group of four has helped UNI average 204 yards a game on the ground.

“I think the key on why we’re having success right now is we have multiple backs and fresh backs,” Farley continued. “They have fresh backs. You don’t look at their total stats because that doesn’t tell the total story. You look at what the production of the offense is in rushing and that tells the story. They are the top rushing team in the country and that is as a unit.

“They are, once again, a very good football team with a great rushing attack.”

NDSU is anticipating a sold out crowd of 18,700 Saturday for its Homecoming Game at the Fargodome. The Bison have won seven straight against UNI to take a 28-26 all-time series lead over the Panthers. UNI is 1-6 all-time at Gate City Bank Field with its only victory coming in 2009 in its first visit, 42-27.

It will be a loud and rowdy environment and Farley welcomes it.

“It is fun to be in that environment after going through last year,” Farley said. “I’d much rather be in that environment that the stale environment of nobody being in the stands. It creates the excitement of the game and that is why we play the game is for that kind of action.”

INJURY UPDATE: All indications are that freshman wide receiver Logan Wolf will take the field after re-aggravating a hamstring injury in UNI’s season opener at Iowa State causing him to miss the next three games.

Wolf dressed for last Saturday’s game with Youngstown State but did not appear.

Farley said tight end Jayden Scott, who was injured against YSU, could miss multiple weeks with an undisclosed injury.


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Sports Reporter

I’m a Waterloo native who has covered Cedar Valley sports for more than 30 years for the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. I’m also a big Cincinnati Reds fan … Go Big Red Machine!

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