Hawkeyes looking to revive offense vs. Northern Iowa

Iowa has hosted instate rival Northern Iowa three times since 2009, and each one of those matchups was a slog.

Perhaps a solution to the Hawkeyes‘ struggles against the Panthers would be a revival of their sluggish offense.

Iowa (2-0) heads into Saturday’s final non-conference tuneup against Northern Iowa (0-1) near the bottom of a number of national categories, including scoring offense, passing yards and first downs.

It hasn’t yet mattered because its defense has played as well as anyone in America. But at some point the Hawkeyes are going to have to start moving the ball — especially with No. 6 Wisconsin set to visit Iowa City next week.

“Offensively we still have work to do in terms of timing and tempo and developing a rhythm,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Basically we just have to play cleaner football.”

Northern Iowa, which has dropped its last three at Kinnick Stadium by a total of just 20 points, fell behind 26-0 at Montana two weeks before rallying in a 26-23 loss. The Panthers were ranked 18th in the FCS preseason poll.

“We just have to go play our game, just like they’re playing their game,” UNI coach Mark Farley said. “I mean, we’re not going to fool them. They’re very confident. They’re a very strong, good looking football team right now…they’re probably a bigger handful right now than in many years past.”

Iowa is looking for its 17th straight win over Northern Iowa in a series that dates to 1899.

SCOUTING THE PANTHERS

Northern Iowa has one of the top quarterbacks in the Missouri Valley Football Conference in Eli Dunne, who threw for 2,704 yards and 26 touchdowns in 2017. But Dunne was just 5 of 20 passing for 24 yards against the Grizzlies. Its defense is keyed by senior linebacker Rickey Neal Jr., who led the MVFC with 9.5 sacks a year ago.

HARDLY A PASSING GRADE

Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley threw 26 touchdown passes a year ago. But Stanley has just one in 2018, and Ferentz said earlier this week that he believes Stanley is “pressing”.

“It really gets down to execution,” Ferentz said. “There are so many things that can go haywire in the passing game. And the bottom line is we haven’t been consistent enough.”

THE NEW END ZONE

Iowa is in the middle of a two-year renovation of its north end zone, where the stands are now much steeper. The new project has helped make Kinnick Stadium much louder and more imposing , and UNI fans making the trip down I-380 will surely notice.

“Usually when you’re on the field, you’re in your zone, and you can kind of block it out,” Iowa safety Jake Gervase said. “But this last week, there were a couple of third downs where I’m sitting there, reading my keys and getting ready to go. But at the same time I hear everybody going nuts.”

EXTRA POINTS

Iowa beat UNI 17-16 in 2009 — when it needed two blocked field goals in a row to preserve the win — and 27-16 in 2012. Four years ago, Iowa sneaked past the Panthers 31-23. Jake Rudock was 31 of 41 passing in that one. … Northern Iowa has beaten 11 FBS opponents. … Iowa has outscored its last three regular-season opponents 82-7 in the second half. … The Panthers and Hawkeyes have a combined 113 players on their rosters from Iowa.

FERENTZ ON UNI

“It’s good for our state. They relish the challenge. You’ve got an FCS program that’s always in the playoffs. They’re always chasing the championship. I think it’s something we should all embrace.” — Ferentz

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