As the old saying goes, there is no rest for the weary. The idiom applies to the top ranked North Dakota State Bison (4-0, 1-0 Missouri Valley) football team as they travel to Iowa to take on the 22nd ranked University of Northern Iowa Panthers (2-2, 1-0 Missouri Valley).
Traveling to the UNI-Dome is never an easy task. In 2014, the Bison rolled into Panthers’ territory riding a 33-game winning streak. UNI snapped the record streak in style with a 23-3 victory.
Other factors going against NDSU include the hard-fought 21-17 win the Herd achieved against the No. 3 ranked SDSU Jackrabbits this past Saturday. A win like that, well good, can be physically and mentally draining to a team. The Panthers played a Thursday night game last week and will be on two extra days of rest.
Lately, the Bison have been a thorn in Northern Iowa’s side, winning the past four meetings between the two clubs. This may just add a little incentive for the Panthers.
The Bison also have something to play for this weekend. For starters, they are looking for a leg up on teams competing for the Missouri Valley Football Conference title.
If the team that showed up against SDSU shows up this weekend, they will leave the UNI-Dome with their second win against a ranked opponent in as many weeks.
If the Bison were to win, quarterback Easton Stick would likely need to rebound from a tough passing performance against SDSU. In the game against the Jacks, Stick completed 9 of 20 passes. However, Stick excelled against the Jacks with his rushing ability. Stick’s 78 yards on the ground led the team and was key on multiple third-down conversions that extended drives. Stick’s deceptive speed and ability to pick up first downs with his legs only adds to the already dynamic Bison offense.
Stick will need to be on his best game Saturday, considering the Panthers defense has not allowed a point throughout their last nine quarters of football. UNI has allowed just 498 yards in their last two contests between Hampton and Indiana State.
On the other side of the ball, the NDSU defense is looking to get back on track in the run game. NDSU’s defense was not bad by any means this past Saturday, but they did allow their first 100-yard rusher of the season.
Jackrabbits running back Isaac Wallace rushed for 110 yards on just nine carries Sunday. The big gash came on a 61-yard touchdown run. Trevor Allen leads the Panthers’ ground attack that threatens NDSU this week. Allen is coming off a game in which he shredded Indiana State’s defense for a career-high 180 yards. The junior added 3 catches for 41 yards as well.
One tricky point for the Bison is preparing for UNI’s quarterback. Eli Dunne has been the guy in the past, but the senior has had a rough go. A 5 for 20 for 25 yards and an interception performance against Montana in the opener saw him pulled for Colton Howell.
Howell started the next game at Iowa, but was 3 for 10 with an interception at Kinnick Stadium.
Dunne came back and has averaged over 200 yards per game in the last three contests. He will more than likely be the guy for the Panthers come Saturday.
Neither quarterback is as elusive as Taryn Christion was last weekend for the Jacks, so the Bison defensive front will be hunting for sacks.
The winner of Saturday’s matchup will give the winner a 2-0 conference record. This will give the winner a healthy head start from the rest of the Missouri Valley pack.
Kickoff from the UNI-Dome is set for 1 p.m. in Cedar Falls.