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UNI Set For Conference Opener Vs. YSU

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - University of Northern Iowa's head coach Mark Farley has used one word to describe his team so far this season. Inconsistent.

"Right now we're inconsistent, but a lot of that inconsistency is due to the fact you just played two Big Ten opponents. Hopefully, we'll be a better team for it," Farley said at his weekly news conference.

The Panthers are 1-2 heading into Saturday's Missouri Valley Football Conference opener against Youngstown State (3-0). While the Panthers' two losses came to Big Ten opponents, one of YSU's victories came against the University of Pittsburgh, an FBS team in the Big East.

"They've got ten returning starters on offense," Farley said of YSU. "They're very solid at what they're doing."

One of those returning starts is quarterback Kurt Hess, who is in his third year as the team's starter. In his last 14 games, Hess has thrown 30 touchdown passes and just eight interceptions.

"He's a lot more comfortable in the pocket and (he's) throwing the ball well. He gets himself out of trouble and runs for some first downs," Farley said.

Unlike the Panthers this season, Farley has been very consistent against YSU, winning all 11 matches against the Penguins, including a last-minute thriller at the UNI-Dome last season, where the Panthers won 21-17 on a David Johnson goal-line rush.

The big key for UNI will be solidifying a broken defense, which is most likely to be without at least one starting linebacker and possibly a second.

"We'll figure it out. It's not our first rodeo," Farley said about finding replacements to fill in at linebacker. "We've got good players, we've just got to find a way to get them all on the field at the same time."

UNI has been ranked in the Top 25 in 94 consecutive polls, dating back to 2004. The Panthers are just five weeks shy of setting an all-time MVFC record for consecutive weeks in the polls.

Kickoff is set for 6:05 pm Saturday at Youngstown, Ohio.

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