When UNI hosts New Hampshire this weekend in the opening round of the FCS national playoffs several players from both sides will be meeting for the second time. In 2005 the Panthers won at New Hampshire in the quarterfinal round.
Panther coach Mark Farley says there are some 7 guys who lined up against them before. Both quarterbacks from that 2005 game are still around. Eric Sanders leads UNI while Ricky Santos directs a high scoring New Hampshire offense. Santos won the Walter Payton award as the best player in the division last year. Farley says Santos is also the player of the year last year in the league, which has five teams in the playoffs.
While the Panther offense receives much of the attention the defense was a huge part in an unbeaten regular season. Farley says his young coaches on the defensive side have gone beyond what he thought they would this season to put the defense number one in the country in scoring defense.
Farley says the playoffs are a new challenge and come with more pressure. Farley says it’s now "all or nothing," as before if you got beat, you had a chance to regroup and get ready for the playoffs. New Hampshire enters the playoffs with a 7-4 record and coach Sean McDowell says the Wildcats don’t mind the role of underdog.
McDowell says all that matters right now is that they are playing in the game. McDowell says the Panthers will be tough to beat, especially at home. He says the team that’s number one is obviously very good and had done it in their league and beaten good teams outside the league, including 1-A Iowa State.
New Hampshire is one of five teams in the playoffs from the Colonial League. McDowell says they’re a pretty good league and the teams they’ve played have given them a good test. He says in past years that test has made them a pretty good team.