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Defense powers No. 2 Northern Iowa
Northern Iowa’s offense, led by quarterback Tirrell Rennie and his running ability, gets a lot of the attention.
But it’s defense where the Panthers, ranked second in the Football Championship Subdivision, perhaps pack the biggest wallop.
UNI starts nine seniors and two juniors on the Missouri Valley Conference’s most-experienced defense, which allows only 17.7 points per game.
“Just an outstanding defensive football team,” said Missouri State coach Terry Allen, whose team plays host to UNI on Saturday.
Leading the defense is L.J. Fort, a senior linebacker from Waynesville who selected UNI over MSU four years ago.
Fort, 6-1 and 232 pounds, leads the Panthers with 37 tackles. His average of 12.3 per game is No. 4 nationally.
“L.J. is playing at a very high level,” UNI coach Mark Farley said Wednesday. “But what I’m most pleased with is how he has matured.
“He’s taken on a leadership role and doing the things you expect a leader to do and doing them in the right ways.”
UNI will be looking for its sixth straight victory over MSU in the 1 p.m. kickoff.
Illinois State has announced plans to renovate its 50-year-old football stadium with the “new” Hancock Stadium scheduled to be ready for the 2013 season.
University president Al Bowman said the project will cost $20 million, with money coming from a variety of sources including student fees.
Bowman called the existing Hancock an “eyesore.”
Redbirds coach Brock Spack said the upgrade will boost the program in all phases, though perhaps not immediately.
“We may not see it the next 1-2 years, but will see a huge benefit down the road,” Spack said.
South Dakota State freshman Austin Sumner completed 18 of 32 passes for 194 yards in his first career start, a 20-13 loss at Illinois State. He inherited the job after Thomas O’Brien quit the team 10 days ago.
Coach John Stiegelmeier said Sumner’s performance was diminished by losing three fumbles.
“I’m guessing this week he’s going to be a lot less nervous and play better,” Stiegelmeier said.
by Lyndal Scranton, News-Leader