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N Iowa Iowa St Football

Northern Iowa quarterback Eli Dunne warms up before a game at Iowa State last season. Dunne and Colton Howell have spent the past two weeks competing for starting assignment at Iowa.

Four things the football teams from Iowa and Northern Iowa can do to position themselves for success in Saturday's 6:30 p.m. game at Kinnick Stadium:

Northern Iowa (0-1)

1. Bring it

Everything starts with intensity for the Panthers, who haven't played since opening the season with a 26-23 loss at Montana in a game that was a tale of two halves.

UNI fell behind 23-0 in its opener, out-gained 273-47 yards in the opening two quarters of a rough start to the season.

Northern Iowa has a well-earned reputation for defensive intensity. In the Missouri Valley Football Conference, it's a necessity to survive and in a rare chance to compete against Iowa in an instate rivalry, it is equally important.

2. Play big on defense

The ability of the Panthers to come off the ball defensively will be big this week.

UNI has a talented defensive end in Rickey Neal Jr., a preseason all-American who finished 9.5 sacks and 15 tackles for a loss and forced a team-leading seven quarterback hurries a year ago. He's capable of giving an Iowa offensive front that has allowed one sack through two games some issues.

Cornerback Xavior Williams, a sophomore from Burlington, and linebacker Duncan Ferch earned preseason all-league honors as well as part of a UNI team which ranks 18th this week at the FCS level.

Bettendorf's Suni Lane is the only Quad-Cities area player on the Panthers' two deep this week. The sophomore is listed as the backs up to senior Blake Thomas at outside linebacker.

3. Find a flow offensively

Now in his 18th season, Mark Farley has remained quiet this week about which of the two quarterbacks he used in the season opener will start under center against the Hawkeyes.

Senior Eli Dunne started the opener. He's a veteran who completed 63 percent of his passes last season but connected on 5-of-20 tries in the opener and was benched for the second half.

Colton Howell, also a senior, went 11-of-20 during the second half of the Montana game to help UNI play its way back into the game. He brings more of a running threat to the position.

UNI has experience at running back. Marcus Weymiller, a senior who played in the same offensive backfield as Iowa's Parker Hesse at Waukon High School, and Trevor Allen lead the way. Allen rushed for 50 yards in the opener while Weymiller finished with 35 yards on 15 carries.

Briley Moore and Deion McShane combined to catch nine passes in the opener and Moore is a preseason all-conference pick.

4. Repeat the feat

Northern Iowa has taken the game into the fourth quarter in each of its last three visits to Kinnick Stadium.

The ability of this Panthers' team to do what UNI teams did in 2009, 2012 and 2014 and create a scenario that puts the pressure on Iowa to perform down the stretch will determine if Northern Iowa will have a chance to repeat the feat.

Iowa (2-0)

1. Establish the run

The ability of the Hawkeyes to establish a ground game through the combined efforts of effective blocking an execution has given Iowa some time to work through a slow start to the passing attack.

Toren Young and Mekhi Sargent will be Iowa's primary ballcarriers this week as Ivory Kelly-Martin continues to nurse an ankle injury. The Hawkeyes have averaged 157 yards per game on the ground, 11th in the Big Ten. Young averages a respectable 5.2 yards per carry.

This part of the game seems to be gaining some traction, particularly as the Hawkeye line has worn opponents down in the second half of the first two games of the season. It will need to be there again.

2. Start fast

This hasn't been an issue for a defense which is limiting opponents to 3.4 yards per play, easily the best effort among Big Ten defenses through the first two weeks of the season.

The offense, meanwhile, has toiled during the first half of games. Iowa has totaled two Miguel Recinos field goals during the first half of its season-opening wins over Northern Illinois and Iowa State.

The Hawkeyes need to find a way to sustain drives early in games. An 18-play, 83-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter of the Iowa State win provides something to build on.

Whether Iowa can carry that momentum into the first half this week remains to be seen.

3. Make a connection

Tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant have been Iowa's most productive receivers through two games, combining for 17 receptions in a passing game that has struggled to find much consistency.

Quarterback Nate Stanley has completed 27-of-51 passes through two games and with deep threat Ihmir Smith-Marsette expected to sit out this week because of a shoulder injury, the Hawkeyes will need to make those connections elsewhere.

Sophomore Max Cooper is the only other player on the roster with more than one reception -- he has two for eight yards -- so look for Stanley to continue to work to develop an improved connection with sophomore Brandon Smith and others as Iowa works to play complementary football on a more consistent basis.

4. Don't look ahead

The elephant in the room this week is Wisconsin.

If UNI hadn't competed on even terms with Iowa in its last three visits to Kinnick and if the Hawkeyes hadn't lost to FCS power North Dakota State at home two years ago, this game has all the makings of a trap game.

Sitting between trophy games against Iowa State and Wisconsin, it would be seemingly easy for Iowa to look beyond Northern Iowa and its 0-1 record.

That would be foolish, and Iowa will need to play efficient football on both sides of the ball if the Hawkeyes hope finish off the regular season unbeaten against nonconference opponents for just the sixth time in Kirk Ferentz's 20 seasons.

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