There is not much new when NDSU and Northern Iowa get together
FARGO — When Northern Iowa head football coach Mark Farley calls up a video of North Dakota State, he sees pretty much the same things he's seen for nine years. Since the teams started playing in 2008, the Bison have run virtually the same schemes on offense and defense.
On the flipside, Farley is in his 17th year at UNI so when NDSU began its study of the Panthers last Sunday, there probably wasn't a whole lot of updating to do. The two programs have been perennial Division I FCS playoff teams and contenders for a Missouri Valley Football Conference title, so why change?
"You see the numbers change and the players change," Farley said, "but the type of team and the personality of the team and the way they play is very similar."
Even a new offensive coordinator hasn't changed NDSU, Farley said. Courtney Messingham took over last winter when Tim Polasek accepted an assistant coaching position at the University of Iowa.
There's a lot of similarity with the background of the two teams. Messingham and NDSU head coach Chris Klieman both played at UNI and both are from nearby Waterloo, Iowa.
"Courtney is new to the mix, but I don't think Courtney was going to go in there and change the world as far as terminology and things," Farley said. "He was going to play to what they do and learn that. For him, knowing Courtney, he will go in and learn what they do and one guy has to learn it instead of 50 guys having to learn it."
Both teams enter this game in similar circumstances as they did a year ago. Like last year, it's the eighth game of the season with NDSU coming in 7-0 and UNI 4-3. The Bison were 6-1 in 2016 and the Panthers 3-4.
NDSU has thrown it less after seven games under Messingham than it did a year ago, although some of that may have to do with the softer schedule. Bison quarterback Easton Stick rarely went to the air much less played in the second half against Mississippi Valley State, Robert Morris and Indiana State.
Stick was 92 of 148 with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions at this point last season. So far this year, he's 84 of 122 with 13 touchdowns and two picks.
"Schematically, a lot of things are similar," Farley said.
UNI actually comes to Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome close to being as hot as NDSU. After a 42-24 loss at Iowa State to open the season — the same Iowa State team that is now nationally ranked in the latest FBS poll — the Panthers were beaten 24-21 at Southern Utah on a field goal with 1:10 remaining, and lost to Western Illinois on a touchdown pass with six seconds remaining.
UNI got back in the playoff mix with wins over then top-10 ranked teams South Dakota State and Youngstown State.
"I think we are trending the right way," Farley said.