CEDAR FALLS | Northern Iowa has found the correct, winning formula over the last seven weeks.
A more balanced offense has produced 31 points a game, and a stingy, opportunistic defense has allowed just one opponent more than 400 yards of offense, including five games where it has allowed 305 or less yards.
That formula, which has seen UNI go 6-1 over that time, including Saturday's 46-7 FCS first-round win over Monmouth, was first implemented in Brookings, South Dakota, the destination for the Panthers' second-round playoff game.
The Panthers (8-4) topped South Dakota State, 38-18, on that day, and the Jacks most certainly have remembered.
"They will be ready for us," UNI head coach Mark Farley said. "They have had two weeks to get ready for us and we know that."
Farley and the Panthers also are saying both teams have evolved and gotten better with that process needing to continue leading up to the rematch.
"I'm sure they have been watching the film of that game," linebacker Jared Farley said. "But they have evolved and we have evolved. Both of us have made a lot of improvements."
The winning formula that got the Panthers to the playoffs worked to perfection against an over-matched Monmouth squad.
Defensively, the seven points allowed were the fewest a Panther team has allowed in a playoff game since a 29-7 win over McNeese State in 1992. UNI also picked off four passes and now have 20 on the season, with 13 of them coming in the last five games.
Opposing quarterbacks have thrown multiple interceptions against the Panthers seven times, and UNI has five-straight games with at least two interceptions.
"That is one thing we really emphasize every day in practice is getting the ball for our offense and putting them in good spots," Jared Farley said.
UNI's offensive balance was also on full display against the Hawks as UNI rushed for a season-best 246 yards, prior to that it's season-high had been 212 at SDSU, and starting quarterback Eli Dunne came back after missing the season-finale and threw for 260 yards and four touchdowns.
"The defense did a great job of getting turnovers, did a good job of that. Gave us the ball a bunch of times in the first half, and we were able to capitalize," Dunne said. "
INJURY FRONT: UNI appeared to get through the Monmouth victory without anything more than the normal bumps and bruises.
Safety A.J. Allen missed his second consecutive game although he warmed up, but tight end, Elias Nissen, who was not expected to play, played several snaps. Offensive tackle Bryce Sweeney, who had missed the last two games, rotated with Jacob Appleman at right tackle.
Getting through unscathed in addition to getting a lot of playing time for reserves once the game was in hand will be important for the Panthers if they hope to continue to make a run in the playoffs according to Mark Farley.
"We were fortunate to get some guys in, and some guys ... like Marcus (Weymiller) didn't have to run in the second half," Mark Farley said. "So hopefully, it gives us an opportunity, since they had the open date, we can be ready to go when we get there, too.
"When you get to December, the key is depth."