During the Herd’s current run of MVFC and National Championships, UNI has been one of its toughest, if not toughest opponents. They stopped the Herd's record breaking 33 game FCS winning streak. Though they are 1-8 in the last eight years (includes one playoff loss), the scores except the last two years have been close and the games hard fought. 2011 it was 27-19, in 2012, 33-21, 2013 came in at 24-23 (needed 2 4th qtr TD’s to seal the victory). They kicked our butts in 2014 23-3. In 2015 we beat them twice. In the regular season 31-28 (Wentz to Sheppard with 35 seconds left) and 23-13 in playoffs. 2016 settled in with a 24-20 victory. Only in the last two years has the margins gotten larger. 2017 saw us manhandling UNI 30-14 and last year’s fourth quarter explosion left them in the rear view mirror at 56-31. What does the 2019 game look like?
We are starting to get to the point of the season where most teams are showing who they really are. Depending on the schedule to date, what they have shown is what they are going to bring the rest of the way. I think this is the case with UNI and the Bison. Both UNI and SU have played four teams ranked in the top 25 of Sagarin, so it’s not going to be like Youngstown State last week at UNI. The Penguins had played four weak teams and dominated. YSU usually has a pretty talented roster, so I was very interested in this game (many local NDSU pundits had our game at YSU listed as a loss coming into the season). YSU had rushing statistics that looked like the Herds (+275 YPG) before deplaning in Iowa. The Panthers held them to 55 yards of rushing and 14 points. YSU is going to have to find its big boy pants if it wants to compete at the top of the MVFC.
What do we know about UNI this year? They play good, sound fundamental defensive football. They held Iowa State to 13 points in regulation play, before falling in triple overtime 29-26. The Cyclones out yardaged the Panthers 463 to 262 and the rushing differential was 185 to 34. With UNI only +1 in turnovers, there is no way this should have gone to overtime with this stat line. ISU should have won by two or more scores in regulation. UNI showed grit on the road and should be commended for that.
They beat Idaho State at home 13-6. This was an abysmal offensive showing by both squads. They should have sold nap-time tickets for shear boredom. UNI “exploded” for 234 total yards with 103 on the ground. This is pathetic when Idaho St. has given up 449 YPG, 170 rushing, 293 passing and 31 PPG to all other foes this year. This was the opportunity for UNI to take off their offensive training wheels and burn some real rubber.
Next they went on the road to ranked Weber State. They had early turnovers and gave up a 73 yard bomb to a bad passing team the first play of the game. Midway thru the 2nd quarter UNI found themselves down 27-3. They never recovered. They held Weber to 285 total yards which is in line with the 280 total yards of offense Weber has gotten against everyone else (unless Weber picks it up on offense they are a pretender not a contender in the playoffs). This brought the Panthers to 0-2 on the road.
UNI HAD TO BEAT YSU to stay relevant in the MVFC last week. They held YSU’s inflated offense because of weak opponents to 294 total yards and only 55 yards rushing. How Herculean this is will only be found out as YSU gets deeper into MVFC play. Then again it might not if YSU starting QB, Nathan Mays is lost for the year (injured late in game).
In summary, UNI has taken four top 25 Sagarin teams and slowed their offense down by about 25% from a cumulative 408 YPG to 311 YPG. They have been saltiest in defending the run and scoring. They slowed the rushing down from 183 YPG to 98.8 YPG and scoring from 33.5 to 19.5. Some of this shininess is mitigated by the fact that in the two road losses they didn’t slow down total yards at all. They are plus two in turnovers in these four games.
How has Code Green performed on defense? Just like it has for the past eight years during this run of excellence. Our four opponents have averaged 388.2 YPG in TO, 139.8 YPG in rushing, 248.3 YPG in passing and 30.1 PPG in scoring. Code Green’s stat line is 278.3 total yards given up, 95.5 yards rushing and 182.2 passing yards and only 12 PPG in scoring (all of these are within our averages for the last 8 years). UNI has a good defense, but ours is better statistically speaking.
The big difference between UNI and the Herd is on offense. The Panthers versus these four good teams have generated 303.5 in TO, 100.3 YPG in rushing, 203.3 YPG passing and 19.3 PPG in scoring. This would rank them 103rd in TO, 100th in scoring, 100th in rushing and their bright spot of passing, 70th. All of this is based on 124 FCS teams this year. The Herd ranks against our four top 25 teams, 37.3 PPG, 263 YPG rushing, 175.5 YPG passing, but #1 in passing efficiency and 438.5 TO. These would rank 19th, 8th, 70th and 29th. This doesn’t factor out the “sh..” opponents many of the teams ahead of us played to get statistically ahead of us. By the playoffs, I factor all this in. Beating the crap out of bad teams doesn’t count for much in the playoffs. Just ask JSU and Sam Houston State. Same could be said of JMU last year.
I think tomorrow’s game will fall more like the last two years versus UNI, a three score spread. That is what Sagarin is predicting at SU as a 19 point favorite. I know Farley is crafty, but only scoring 19 points a game and running the ball at 100 YPG, makes UNI too one dimensional. A freshman QB, with no run support is a bad formula for the Thunder Dome. I think NDSU goes past the tie with JMU for the second longest FCS streak to 27 games.