Know the Huskers Foes 2024: Northern Iowa Panthers

After a hard matchup against the Colorado Buffaloes, the Nebraska Cornhuskers close their non-conference schedule against the Northern Iowa Panthers, out of the Missouri Valley Conference in the FCS. The week three matchup will be the first time the Huskers and Panthers have faced off on the gridiron and will be good opportunity for both teams. It will a good “buffer” game for Nebraska as it will enter conference play in week four and it will also test Northern Iowa and it’s ability to go into a hostile environment when it comes to Lincoln. Here is a preview of the 2024 Panthers.

Know the Huskers Foes 2024: Northern Iowa Panthers

2023 review

The Missouri State Bears took on the University of Northern Iowa Panthers at Plaster Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023.
The Missouri State Bears took on the University of Northern Iowa Panthers at Plaster Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. Photo by Nathan Papes/Springfield News-Leader / USA TODAY NETWORK

The 2023 season was overall a disappointment for Northern Iowa. The Panthers finished the 2023 campaign with a 6-5 record on the year. They had a few promising moments last season with wins over FCS ranked opponents. Those upsets were against the No. 23/19 Youngstown State Penguins (44-41) and the No. 11/9 North Dakota Fighting Hawks (27-0). However, Northern Iowa ended the season on back-to-back losses to the Missouri State Bears and the No. 9/9 North Dakota State Bison, which ended any FCS Playoff hopes.

The Panthers’ passing game was led by senior quarterback Theo Day, who completed 205 of 337 passes for 2,876 yards with 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Senior wide receiver Sam Schnee was Northern Iowa’s top target last season. Schnee caught 57 passes for 1,039 yards and six touchdowns, which led the Panthers offense in all three categories. Northern Iowa’s rushing attack was a mix of a few different backs. Senior Tye Edwards led the Panthers in rushing with 109 carries for 537 yards and five touchdowns. Senior Amauri Pesek-Hickson had 96 carries for 450 yards and five touchdowns as well. Defensively, sophomore linebacker Tucker Langenberg led Northern Iowa with 68 total tackles (35 solo, 33 assisted). Sophomore defensive lineman Cannon Butler led the Panthers in sacks with four total sacks and five tackles for loss in 2023.

2024 overview

The 2024 schedule will not be easy for Northern Iowa. The Panthers open the 2024 season against the Valparaiso Beacons before going on the road for three straight weeks to St. Thomas, Nebraska and Hawaii. After that four game stretch, Northern Iowa returns home to face the reigning FCS National Champion South Dakota State Jackrabbits, who are the favorites to not only win the Missouri Valley but potentially win a third straight national championship. After facing the Jackrabbits, the Panthers will go on the road to the South Dakota Coyotes and North Dakota. The rest of the schedule includes a trip to Fargo to face North Dakota State and a trip to Ohio to face Youngstown State. The Northern Iowa football team will have to be headstrong if it wants to return to the FCS playoffs in 2024.

The Panthers also mades some changes on the offensive side of the ball for the 2024 season. Head coach Mark Farley and Northern Iowa brought in former Washington State Cougars quarterback Luke Falk as the new offensive coordinator. Falk brings an “Air Raid” style scheme that has an obvious influence from his former coach Mike Leach. Coach Farley also will take over the defensive play calling in 2024 after former defensive coordinator Jeremiah Johnson left for Louisiana Tech.

There will be a two or three-man battle for the starting quarterback job for the Panthers in 2024. The first quarterback is the only returnee from 2023 which is junior Aidan Dunne. The second quarterback is sophomore Jaxon Dailey, who transferred to Northern Iowa from Arkansas State. A potential third option for starting quarterback arose this spring after a strong showing from sophomore Matthew Schecklman. Either way the Panthers go for their starting quarterback; it won’t be an experienced starter. Offensive line returns five with starting experience and Edwards leads a very deep running back position group for 2024. The defensive side of the ball will be a different story. Northern Iowa lost all four starters on the defensive line from 2023 and six of its seven top secondary pieces are gone as well.

Week three matchup

Despite this game being against an FCS opponent, Nebraska will have tread carefully as the Panthers have given other FBS programs trouble in the past. However, this game will give the Huskers a chance to settle down after a potentially emotional and hard fought game against Colorado. Northern Iowa will have two games under its belt to allow the team a chance to settle any growing pains from the new offensive and defensive play calling.

The Huskers and Panthers will face off for the first time in either school’s history on Saturday, Sept. 14, in Lincoln at 6:30 on the Big Ten Network.

Main Image: © Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune / USA TODAY NETWORK

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