The University of Northern Iowa Panthers: 1-0 (0-0 MVFC)

Cedar Falls, Iowa – Population: 40,566

First Season: 1895
Enrollment: 11,981
Nickname: Panthers
MVFC Champs: 1985, 1987, 1990-1996, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011
Playoff Appearances: 17 (FCS appearances)

  • ALL-TIME RECORD: 655-408-46 (UNI) vs 582-488-26 (Montana)
  • HEAD COACH: Mark Farley (129-61, 15th season at UNI)
  • CONFERENCE: Missouri Valley Football Conference
  • STADIUM:UNI-Dome (1976 – 3,450 capacity)
  • 2015 RECORD: 9-5 (5-3 MVFC – Tied for 3rd)
  • 2016 RECORD: 1-0 (0-0 MVFC)
  • LAST 5 SEASONS: 40-24
  • SERIES HISTORY: Montana leads series 5-0.
  • LAST MEETING: 2011 Playoffs FCS Quarterfinals.  Montana 48, Northern Iowa 10.

About Northern Iowa

FCS perennial power Northern Iowa is Montana’s 2nd opponent in the 2016 campaign, and they hail from the tough-as-nails Missouri Valley Football Conference.  By looking at Montana’s undefeated record (5-0) against UNI and the last matchup blowout in the 2011 FCS Quarterfinals (48-10), you’d like to think that Montana’s odds in this matchup would be good, but that’s not the case this year.  This game isn’t in the friendly confines of Washington-Grizzly Stadium and Northern Iowa is a very good team.  Northern Iowa can be described as a team that is comparable to North Dakota State… tough defense and a strong dose of a rushing attack on offense.  Unfortunately for Northern Iowa, they have had to play in NDSU’s shadow the last several years but UNI is one of the few programs that has challenged the Bison in the MFVC during NDSU’s rise.  In 2015, UNI played NDSU twice like Montana did, but lost both games.  The first game in Fargo UNI fell to the Bison 28-31, and again in the FCS Quarterfinals 13-23.

Here’s a look at Northern Iowa’s season so far:

Week 1: @ Iowa State – W 25-20

Last week, Northern Iowa took on its FBS rival Iowa State in Ames, Iowa where the Panthers upset the Cyclones 25-20.  With 6:00 minutes remaining in the game and down 19-20, Northern Iowa intercepted ISU QB Joel Lanning and scored the go-ahead touchdown on its next offensive series.  Iowa State couldn’t manage to make a comeback as it fumbled and threw an interception in its final two offensive series of the game.  Northern Iowa held Iowa State to just 51 total yards on the ground, but that can be credited to Iowa State dealing with a shaky offensive line which saw one of its starters suspended for the game resulting in ISU’s running game never developing.  Northern Iowa’s week spot in this matchup came in the defense’s secondary where Iowa State’s QB went 18/28 and 256 yards in the air against them.

Offensive/Defensive Breakdown:

Below we have put together a series of charts that compare Montana’s and Northern Iowa’s Offensive and Defensive production and how they compare to each other at this point of the season.  Though one game of data makes it difficult to truly tell how good/bad a team is, it’s still interesting to look at.

Montana vs Northern Iowa Offensive/Defensive Comparison

The graph below shows how Montana and Northern Iowa compare offensively and defensively. Click on the image for a more detailed look.

(Stats research from Brint Wahlberg)

Offensive Stats Montana UNI
Passing Yards 353 135
Rushing Yards 167 232
Total Offense 520 367
Defensive Stats Montana UNI
Pass Defense 184 256
Rush Defense 69 51
Total Defense 253 307
Other Stats Montana UNI
Offensive Points Scored 41 ppg 25 ppg
Defensive Points Allowed 31 ppg 20 ppg
Turnover Margin -3 +3
T.O.P 29:13 35:56
Red Zone Defense (Touchdowns) 67% Allowed 100% Allowed
Red Zone Offense (Touchdowns) 80% Scored 60% Scored

Montana vs Northern Iowa National FCS Rank

The graph below shows where Montana and Northern Iowa rank Nationally in the FCS. The lower the bar, the better the rank. Click on the image for a more detailed look.

FCS Rankings Montana Northern Iowa
Passing Yards 9th 77th
Rushing Yards 23rd 39th
Total Offense 11th 50th
Passing Defense 19th 74th
Rushing Defense 23rd 15th
Total Defense 19th 28th
Scoring Offense 17th 38th
Scoring Defense 33rd 60th

Game Outlook:

Since both teams have only played one game, it’s difficult to determine exactly how this one will play out, but we can see from both games what needs to happen for a Griz to come away with a win. Northern Iowa will most likely use their rushing attack at Montana to open up the passing game. Montana’s D-Line will need to play solid to limit the yards that UNI will try to get on the ground. Montana’s secondary will need to avoid the big plays through the air that UNI will try to do to compliment their running game.

On the offensive side of the ball, Montana will have to deal with a young Northern Iowa secondary unit that could struggle with Montana’s passing attack. To get the passing attack going, the Griz O-Line will need to play much, much better this week and protect Brady Gustafson in the pocket and allow him time to get into a rhythm. At the same time, Brady will need to get the ball out to his receivers quicker and make smarter decisions on where he’s throwing to.

Third, the Griz need to win the turnover battle. The Griz cannot afford to give away the ball to Northern Iowa on Saturday. Montana needs to protect the ball and take control of the game on offense. On defense, the Griz need to fly around the field and force some turnovers of its own. Coach Semore has said the defense’s goal is to get as many turnovers as possible so that they can get the offense back on the field.


If the O-Line plays tough ball and gives Brady time to get in rhythm and if Brady can continue playing great football like what we saw in the 2nd half of the Saint Francis game last week, the Griz have a great chance of winning this game. Likewise, if Brady starts off slow and makes costly turnover mistakes, this looks to be a blowout loss to a very good team.

Prediction: Montana plays good ball and comes away with a 3-7 point victory!

Go Griz!