While UNI’s roster is no secret, Iowa State’s starters pose a mystery

It should be a good one Saturday in Ames between the Cyclones and the Panthers. Three of their last four meetings have been decided by less than a touchdown.
Published: Aug. 30, 2023 at 10:39 PM CDT
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AMES, Iowa (KCRG) - Saturday’s matchup between UNI and Iowa State is a tale of two very different teams - one more experienced, the other much younger.

UNI doesn’t have many questions on the starting roster, ISU has quite a few. The biggest is at quarterback.

“Would I feel like anyone has separated themselves? I would say probably no,” Matt Campbell said Tuesday. “But I think one of the things if you asked our kids in our locker room our kids have elite belief in what’s going on at quarterback.”

The two most likely starting options are redshirt sophomore Rocco Becht and true freshman J.J. Kohl.

The Cyclone youth extends to the defense, ISU will have at least four first-time starters on that side of the ball.

“We’re gonna rotate a bunch we’re all ready to play. We’re hungry we’re ready, we’re all ready for this week,” said linebacker Carson Willich. “I think it’s gonna take all of us. We don’t know who coach has in yet. We’re just gonna be ready for whenever our name is called.”

That defense will be in charge of stopping All-MVFC quarterback Theo Day, whom the ISU coaches have a lot of respect for.

“I think he’s obviously an NFL quarterback,” said Iowa State defensive coordinator Jon Heacock. “His mobility, arm strength, stability, all those different things.”

On the other side, the Panthers don’t know which quarterback or running backs to prepare for on Saturday. Mark Farley says the mystery around Iowa State makes in-game adjustments vital.

“They know a lot more about us than we do about them,” said Farley. “We’re gonna have to adjust and if we can communicate and adjust more efficiently and effectively, we can do it within series and not halves.”

This will be UNI’s only game against an FBS opponent. The Panthers are treating this like any other game to an extent. They say it’s impossible to ignore the importance of this in-state rivalry.

“People in the state of Iowa take a lot of pride in their college football teams,” said UNI quarterback Theo Day. “I think it’s something that everyone’s looking forward to and excited to play well for.

“It’s another game, but at that same time it’s in its own category for sure,” said UNI wide receiver Sam Schnee. “I think everybody takes pride in winning that game and that’s what we’re going to go do.”

The game is set for 1:00 p.m. on Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium.