The Panther football squad took a tough loss at No. 5 North Dakota State last week.

In a battle between two FCS giants that had a few (terribly) missed calls, big plays, and the possibility of a UNI victory -- the score was not indicative of how close this contest really was. Either way, the purple and gold have a shot and bouncing back this Saturday at home against South Dakota.

Though the Coyotes are generally a top 25 team in the country and have plenty of talent of their own, UNI has had their number over the last few contests, taking the last three matchups and nine of the last 11.

On the other hand, South Dakota is riding high after an upset of the other team up north in the Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC). Last week, the Coyotes took down the No. 13 North Dakota Fighting Hawks, 20-13 at home.

Despite the recent dominance of this conference battle by the Panthers, they'll have to be prepared for a solid USD team.

What to watch for

Ground and Pound from the Coyotes -- On Both Sides of the Ball

USD is 17th in the country in rushing attack, putting up 199.5 yards per game (ypg). Travis Theis, a redshirt-freshman from Pratt, Kansas and bruiser of a running back, torched the Fighting Hawks defense last week, scampering for 138 yards on 23 carries. He's also got five touchdowns on the year.

South Dakota currently ranks 10th nationally in running defense, allowing just 87.5 ypg to their opponents. Last week, North Dakota All-American running back Otis Weah ran for just 58 yards on 15 carries, and the USD defense has allowed just two rushing touchdowns through six games this season.

An Underrated Passing Game from Each Team

The Yotes enter this weekend's contest with the 71st-ranked passing offense, while the Panthers trail not too far behind at 73rd in the FCS.

Anyone who's had a moment to watch a pass completion between UNI quarterback Theo Day and wide receiver Isaiah Weston knows that the squad hailing from Cedar Falls is not the 73rd-best passing offense in the country. After a 181 yard performance last week at NDSU, Weston leads the MVFC in yards per game with 113.0, and averages 25.94 yards per catch. He's also got four touchdowns to his name, including this bomb at the Fargodome:

For USD, Carson Camp manages the offense. Camp returns from the spring squad where he was named to the MVFC All-Newcomer Team and became the first true freshman in USD recorded history to start a season opener at quarterback. So far this season, he's passed for 1147 yards and nine touchdowns with just two interceptions.

A Still Formidable UNI Defense

To be frank, Panther fans truly shouldn't worry too much about the USD running game.

At this very moment, UNI's rushing defense is ranked 17th in the country, allowing just 100.2 ypg. Prior to their contest with the top running team in the country from North Dakota State, the purple and gold allowed just 80 ypg to their previous four opponents. They've allowed just four rushing touchdowns so far this season and are not to be messed with. Linebacker Spencer Cuvelier, leads the way for UNI's defense, as he's totaled 23 tackles in MVFC play, with 11.5 tackles per game. Cuvelier also ranks 3rd in Valley play with 1.5 tackles for loss per game.

With a stalwart run defense, the Panthers can inhibit USD's ability to run play action passes and will be able to get to the quarterback at will. With Camp's youth and inexperience at the collegiate-level, having him rattled and expecting pressure will surely benefit the UNI defense.

Final Thoughts

UNI runs away with a victory over a less-experienced, less-talented team. Though these two teams are close in ranking, it will not be close on Saturday. Panthers win, 35-17.

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