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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. | On film, No. 25 Northern Iowa does not see a team with a losing record.

Sure, on paper, Missouri State stands 3-6 overall, and 2-4 in the Missouri Valley Conference, and that is how people outside of the Valley see the Bears.

The Panthers, on the other hand, see a team that is starting to click under third-year head coach Dave Steckel.

"The intent is you never get to high on the wins, and never to low on the losses and treat everybody the same," UNI head coach Mark Farley said. "We came into camp with that formula. Hopefully, we have instilled that in them.

"I don't know if you have to go talk about it all the time because you have said the players mentioned it before we did, this is a good football team."

Farley was referring to outside linebacker Keelon Brookins calling Saturday's game a 'trap game' following UNI's victory over South Dakota at home last week.

The Panthers (5-4, 4-2) say there is enough on film to see why the Bears have won back-to-back games over Southern Illinois and Indiana State and will be honoring their seniors while trying to win three straight games for the first time since 2013.

MSU is also looking to end a 11-game losing streak to the Panthers.

"They are biting at the bit to get playoff eligible so we will have our hands full," Steckel said. "

UNI is preparing for a team that in its last four games is averaging 38.1 points and 481.3 yards per game

Offensively for MSU, it starts with quarterback Peyton Hulsing, who has thrown for 1,785 yards and leads MSU in rushing with 621. Farley says the Bears run a hybrid spread offense that has a lot elements of a triple-option in it.

"They have re-did their system and you can see they put some time into it," Farley said. "This is so multiple and so many things that come out of it that it is triple option football."

While Farley says Hulsing is the motor behind the offense, the power comes from an offensive line that has played well.

"I've heard that through the league multiple times that they are one of the better offensive lines in the league," Farley said. "This is the first chance I've gotten to watch them and I can see why other coaches have told me that."

MSU also has one of the best return man in the Valley in Deion Holliman, who ranks 13th in the FCS in return yards per game.

"They have good team, a good quarterback, will we be focused," linebacker Duncan Ferch said. "We're banged up, but obviously, come Saturday, we will be good to go locked in like it is another Top 10 team, it doesn't matter."

UNI will come in banged up as the Panthers finished the victory over the Coyotes without starting offensive tackles Cal Twait and Bryce Sweeney, tight end Elias Nissen and safety A.J. Allen.

On Monday, Farley said he was moving forward like those players would be unavailable to play against the Bears, but he was hopeful that one or two would potentially be able to play.

"We played a lot of snaps against South Dakota, 95, 96, 97 counting special teams," Farley said. "It was a physical game and we're feeling it.

"Let's hope we can get some guys healthy."

IN THE HUNT: The Panthers are still mathematically alive to win the MVFC regular-season title or at least a share of it.

This is how it can happen.

First, UNI must win Saturday in Springfield, and then close out with a win over Indiana State at home next week.

The Panthers cannot win the title outright, but can win the Valley's automatic qualifier spot if it wins both games, North Dakota State loses both games, and either South Dakota State or South Dakota win both of its games as UNI holds tiebreaker over both.

Contact Jim Nelson at jim.nelson@wcfcourier.com.


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