UNI Selected For FCS Playoffs
UNI is going to the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision playoffs for the 22nd time in program history.
The Panthers (6-5) will face Eastern Washington (9-2) in the first-round on Saturday (Nov. 27) at 3 PM. They were one of six Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC) squads selected for the 24-team field Sunday, when the playoff pairings were unveiled live during the selection show on ESPNU at 11:30AM.
Saturday’s game will be at Eastern Washington, one of five playoff qualifiers from the Big Sky Conference. The Eagles’ Roos Stadium features red turf, nicknamed “The Inferno.”
Rhode Island athletic director Thorr Bjorn chaired the FCS Playoff Selection Committee. Bjorn focused on UNI specifically when he talked to the ESPNU studio hosts about bubble teams that made the field, pointing out that the Panthers are the only team with three wins over playoff qualifiers this season.
One of UNI’s victories against a playoff qualifier was at Sacramento State, which finished regular season play 9-2 and earned the No. 4 overall seed after winning the Big Sky Conference title. The Panthers beat the Hornets, 34-16, on Sept. 11.
Bjorn said the strength of the MVFC also helped UNI when the decision was made to include the Panthers in the playoff field. This is the first time six teams from the league have been in postseason play, the most of any conference this season.
Other MVFC teams in the field are: Missouri State, North Dakota State (the overall No. 2 seed and eight-time national champion), Missouri State, Southern Illinois, South Dakota and South Dakota State.
This will be the fourth time UNI has faced the Eagles in the postseason. The Panthers won each of the previous meetings in 1985, 1992 and 2005. UNI is 6-1 overall against Eastern Washington, with the Panthers' only loss coming on the road in 2016.
UNI Head coach Mark Farley is 2-1 against Eastern Washington.
The Panthers rank in the top five nationally in six categories. UNI is No. 1 in turnovers gained, and Isaiah Weston is atop the list for most yards per reception. Quarterback Theo Day is second in the nation for passing yards per completion. Caden Houghtelling and the team each are No. 3 in the nation for fumbles recovered. Matthew Cook is fourth in the nation for field goal percentage.
UNI closed its regular season Saturday afternoon with a 41-3 home victory over Western Illinois. Dom Williams had a 99-yard run from scrimmage and the Panthers’ defense recorded 12 quarterback sacks, both of which set school records. UNI’s previous record for longest rushing play from scrimmage and longest rushing touchdown was 98 yards, set by Arnold Paulsen in 1951 (when the school was known as Iowa State Teachers College).
Eleven conference champions automatically qualified for this year's playoffs. An additional 13 teams earned at-large bids selected by the FCS Playoff Committee. The top eight seeds receive a bye week. The seeded teams are: No. 1 Sam Houston State (defending national champion), No. 2 North Dakota State (eight-time national champion), No. 3 James Madison, No. 4 Sacramento State, No. 5 Villanova, No. 6 Montana, No. 7 East Tennessee State and No. 8 Montana State.
The FCS Playoffs conclude with the national championship in Frisco, Texas, on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022.
UNI has been in the semifinals seven times: 1985, 1987, 1992, 1996, 2001, 2005, 2008.