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The 2021 spring football season at UNI kicks off Friday night with a top-five matchup against South Dakota State. The Panthers' are slated to play their first game of the fall season 194 days later.

UNI athletic officials released the 2021 fall schedule on Tuesday. The campaign begins with a Sept. 4 road game at Iowa State.

The Panthers travel to Ames for the 34th time. The in-state rivals are also scheduled to face each other in 2023, 2026 and 2028.

Following their trip to Jack Trice Stadium, the Panthers fly to California for a Sept. 11 game at Sacramento State. The meeting is the first in history between the two teams, although the Hornets are scheduled to play UNI in Cedar Falls in 2022.

The Panthers' home opener is on Sept. 18th against St. Thomas of Minnesota, which is entering its first season as an FCS program. The Tommies are beginning their transition to Division I from Division III, the first program in NCAA history to make that jump. St. Thomas will compete in the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League.

UNI has agreed to play the Tommies in the Twin Cities during the 2024 season. The last time the Panthers and St. Thomas met on the gridiron was nearly a century ago. The two teams tied 6-6 in 1927. UNI beat St. Thomas 20-0 in 1926.

The Panthers host Youngstown State (Oct. 2), South Dakota (Oct. 16), Southern Illinois (Oct. 30) and Western Illinois (Nov. 20) as part of the 2021 Missouri Valley Football Conference fall schedule. UNI travels to North Dakota State (Oct. 9), South Dakota State (Oct. 23), Illinois State (Nov. 6) and Missouri State (Nov. 13) for league road games.

UNI returns to Jack Trice Stadium on Sept. 4, to face the Cyclones for the 34th time. The game is the first of four games on the schedule for upcoming years. The Panthers and Cyclones will face each other in 2021, 2023, 2026 and 2028.

Southern Illinois returns to the UNI-Dome for the first time since 2016.

According to UNI athletic officials, tickets for the fall season will go on sale later this spring.

UNI's spring 2021 season kicks off at 7 PM Friday in Cedar Falls. The Panthers, ranked No. 3 nationally, host fifth-ranked South Dakota State at the UNI-Dome.

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