Fact or Fiction: UNI @ North Dakota State

Kilfoy-INT-vs-NDSU

| photo credit: Roland Ferrie (UNI University Relations) |

In this quarterfinal playoff edition of ‘Fact or Fiction’ the guys debate how many snaps Carson Wentz will play Saturday as he continues to recover from a broken wrist he suffered in October. The guys decide how many passing yards will be required from UNI quarterback Aaron Bailey, and they first guess how many points the Panther defense can afford to give up to the Bison.


Fact-or-FictionNorth Dakota State senior quarterback Carson Wentz, who is recovering from a wrist injury, will play more than a dozen snaps Saturday…


The Sportsguy: FACT

This is a really tough question to first guess but I do think Carson Wentz plays some in the game on Saturday.

Here is the scenario I see playing out that gets Wentz into the game. I see UNI’s defense continuing to play really well, and that being the case redshirt freshman Easton Stick and the Bison offense could have some struggles. If this happens and UNI is leading at halftime or early in the third quarter like they were in the first meeting this year look for Wentz to get the call ‘from the pen’ and try lead a comeback like he did in the first meeting. If Wentz comes into the game in relief of the redshirt freshman Stick look for the Bison crowd to go crazy. The thing is, if Stick is playing well — he is 6-0 as their starting quarterback — then Wentz may not see the field. Also, we have no idea how Wentz truly feels and how much he can contribute after a 6-7 week layoff. I still think he plays some and if Stick does start it would mean UNI is most likely leading and playing well, and Wentz comes in to try and save the day for the Bison.

J.T. Nutt: FACT

Sadly, yes.  As the resident hockey fan/player I’m doubly disappointed that Easton Stick (probably) won’t get the start and that Easton Stick does not play hockey despite the fact his parents clearly were hockey fans to give him that name.  Carson Wentz probably could have played before this week but it wasn’t worth risking further injury to a guy who was not 100-percent when the Bison have a solid backup in Stick.

NDSU was patient with Wentz’s rehab and it may pay off this week.  It’s an odd role reversal that NDSU will have two quarterbacks playing and UNI will only have one.  Easton has played well but Wentz still gives NDSU the best chance to win.  Wentz would have been the MVFC Offensive Player of the Year had he not been injured.  The Bison were Carson’s team before he got hurt, they will be his team again if he’s healthy.  Easton Stick is a good quarterback and has the potential to be a great quarterback, but he’s not Carson Wentz.  At least not yet.  Carson may get a dozen snaps on a single series in this game.

Jason ‘Beef’ Groomes: FACT

For some reason I have a hunch that the fact Carson Wentz wasn’t made available for media this week, including the Bison’s media, is an indicator he’s going to play.  True, Easton Stick has played well in a relief role, but this was right about the time that Wentz was going to be coming back.  Even at 80-percent I’m not so sure the Bison coaching staff is wanting to put a redshirt freshman under center against this Panther defense.  I’d feel the same way if Eli Dunne was forced to start against the Bison.  Make no mistake about it, IF Wentz is cleared, he’s going to play.  Everybody heard he started working out this week and then the doors were closed on practice.  He’s playing.

Cole: FACT

I think the fact that NDSU head coach Chris Klieman has played his Carson Wentz cards close to the vest all week is an indicator that the senior quarterback will receive at least a dozen snaps on Saturday. Coach Klieman and Coach Farley have quickly gained a reputation for keeping as much as possible under wraps during their game week. Think back to the regular season matchup this season when their was speculation Sawyer Kollmorgen would start for the Panthers. Well, that news didn’t officially break until the pregame show on gameday. I see a similar situation playing out now with Wentz.


Fact-or-FictionUNI quarterback Aaron Bailey will throw for more than 150 yards against the Bison…


The Sportsguy: FACT

I really think this is one of the ‘keys’ to a UNI win. NDSU is going to load the box and try and force UNI to throw it and beat them through the air.

If you remember, in their October 10 meeting Bailey had that long 81-yard touchdown run along with some other good rushes — and he only played in the second half. The Bison are going to try and stop or slow down the running game and see if Bailey and the UNI offense can move the ball through the air. The thing is, if they do try and force UNI to throw it more look for Bailey to get some decent running yardage by scrambling and tucking and running! But, I do think it will take 14-15 completed passes to win this game and advance the Panthers to semifinals. And that should be good for 150 yards, and maybe a touchdown or two!

J.T. Nutt: FACT

The offense for UNI is light years ahead of where they were when they lost to NDSU in conference play.  Back then the offense had no consistency and two quarterbacks.  The passing game was not good.  The running game had yet to develop as well.  Now, UNI is running at will and the passing game is starting to come around.  And for the first time in YEARS, UNI has a deep-ball threat.  NDSU has not seen this UNI team that can pass and run this well.  The running game has always been there, but with Rennie and Carnes consistency in the passing game was lacking.  Aaron Bailey has been making noticeable strides each week.  At first he had no chemistry with is wideouts, but then again they were trying to play for two completely different quarterbacks.  Bailey can now rely on Daurice Fountain and Charles Brown to come up with catches, whereas earlier in the season there was no confidence in throwing a jump ball because it probably would have ended up in an interception  The passes were overthrown, under thrown, or it would hit the receiver in the numbers and they would drop it.  Aaron Bailey now confidence in his own abilities in the passing game, and trust in his receivers.

200 yards of passing seems very possible, if not probable.  UNI needs to control the clock to win this game.  The defense gave up a game winning touchdown on their 80th play of the last game.  A good offense keeps the Bison offense on the sidelines and UNI walks away with the win.  Bailey couldn’t do anything in a last minute drive last time, but he will be the catalyst in a win this go around.  He’ll throw for 200, rush for at least 100, and lead UNI to the next round of the playoffs.

Jason ‘Beef’ Groomes: FICTION

Believe me, I really hope Aaron does.  I hope he throws for 300.  But, if there is a defense that has been playing as good as Northern Iowa’s, it’s the Green Group in Fargo.  Southern Illinois is about the only team to put up any numbers against either of these teams the last seven weeks, but Mark Iannotti isn’t playing in this game.  This game has all the makings of a total defensive struggle.  Watch it be a game with both in the 30s now.  The running game, clock management and ball control are going to be of utmost importance in this game.  Not just for what they are, but as a means of keeping their crowd out of the game.  I anticipate this being a run first, run second and pass third only if first and second didn’t work kind of strategy for this game.

Cole: FICTION

Something I think has taken fans some time to not only realize, but warm up to, is just how spectacular the UNI running game has become under new offensive coordinator Joe Davis. Much like his colleague on the defensive side, Jeremiah Johnson, Davis should be praised for adjusting the offense to his personnel and not being stuck in a particular philosophy. This year’s UNI team is putting up bigger rushing numbers collectively than it did with David Johnson in the backfield, and there’s no denying that for the Panthers to be successful on Saturday they are going to have to run the ball. It’s simply where their bread is buttered this season as an offense.

I understand the discussion this week about the need for more production through the air, but, it’s not like this Panther offense is all the sudden going to be able to flip the script and beat the Bison with a big time passing attack. Anything less than 200-250 yards on the ground Saturday will likely equal a result Panther fans don’t want to deal with.


Fact-or-FictionThe Panthers defense must hold the Bison offense to 21 or less points…


The Sportsguy: FICTION

The first meeting was a 31-28 NDSU win. UNI led 28-24 in the final four minutes and was threatening to go up 31-24 if not for a missed field goal. I look for this game to be no different.

There will be some scoring. Heck, it could be 21-21 at the half! Also, in the fourth quarter of the game on October 10th the lead changed hands five times. When have you ever seen that happen? Five lead changes in one quarter,  the teams just kept exchanging touchdowns! So, they got something figured out in the final 15 minutes and some of that may carry over to this game on Saturday.

J.T. Nutt: FICTION

The Bison offense is a well oiled machine.  Starting quarterback Carson Wentz went down and NDSU didn’t miss a step.  Easton Stick has done a great job in his absence but he may be moving back into the backup role on Saturday (see question #1 above).  The Bison are still going to put up points, it’s what they do.  It’s why they have won four consecutive championships.  That being said, the UNI defense is the best in the Missouri Valley, and one of the best in the nation.  The Panthers may give up a lot of yards, but they do not give up a ton of points (They gave up 28 points to Southern Illinois, but SIU’s offense is probably better than NDSU’s, even though the Bison are a more complete team).

NDSU has scored more than 21 points in all but one game this season, their head-scratching 24-21 loss to South Dakota.  NDSU average score is over 35 a game.  UNI’s 31-28 lost early in the season, but as said before it was on the 80th play of the game for the Bison offense.  Had UNI’s defense not been on the field that much then it likely would have held the Bison to 24 points or less.  I think that the Bison will get 24 in this game.  The defense, once again, will be there.  But, it will be up to the UNI offense to win the game.  UNI wins it 31-24.  The defense will force two turnovers and score a touchdown.

Jason ‘Beef’ Groomes: FACT

Like my answer before, I’m anticipating a low-scoring, defensive struggle.  Unless there are big plays happening on special teams or returns from the defensive sides of the ball, I think if one of these teams are fortunate enough to get three touchdowns, you’re looking at the winner.  Honestly, I think this game comes down to a late kick. I just hope we’re the ones who have the ball.

Cole: FICTION

Given the fact this game will be played inside the Fargodome I think it’d be hard to predict a low scoring affair. And when you consider how the regular season matchup played out it is even more difficult to think Saturday’s game will be a low scoring slugfest. Now, do I think the UNI defense is capable of holding the Bison to 21 or less? Yes I do. Will they? I think it’s not too likely. Too many plays are likely to be made by two teams chalk full of playmakers.