See more of the story

Tommies vs. Northern Iowa

4 p.m. Saturday, at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa

Streaming: ESPN3

Radio: AM-1500

The Tommies head to Cedar Falls to face Northern Iowa on Saturday in a litmus test for where the program currently stands as they face their first FCS competition and to get a glimpse of where they hope they are headed.

The last time the two programs met? 1927.

This is the Panthers' home opener at the UNI-Dome, which seats more than 16,000. One of the premier FCS programs in the nation, Northern Iowa made the jump to Division I-AA from Division II in 1980. The Panthers have four players in the NFL, including two-time All-Pro running back David Johnson and 2021 draft picks Spencer Brown (offensive tackle, third round, Buffalo Bills) and Elerson Smith (defensive end, fourth round, New York Giants).

The Panthers are ranked No. 18 in the FCS Top 25 poll after losing 16-10 to Iowa State in Ames in Week 1 and then winning at Sacramento State 34-16 last week in a game where the defense forced six turnovers.

Starting quarterback Theo Day transferred from Michigan State and is a redshirt sophomore. He made his first start against Sacramento State and completed six of 11 passes for 120 yards and two scores. But expect UNI to focus on the ground game. Last week Dom Williams (97 yards), Vance McShane (65 yards, two scores) and Bradrick Shaw (38 yards) all had least 10 carries as the Panthers rushed for 219 yards.

UNI has six Minnesotans on the roster: Jevon Brekke (junior, defensive back, Delano); Omar Brown (sophomore, defensive back, Minneapolis North); Terrance Kamara (freshman, running back, Minneapolis North); Michael Olowo (freshman, defensive back, Rogers); Nick McCabe (sophomore, linebacker, Caledonia) and Isaiah Weston (redshirt, junior receiver, St. Michael-Albertville).

In 2019 Weston led the team with 1,053 total yards — the 10th best mark in program history. Last week he caught three passes for 92 yards and a score. Brown has 15 tackles on the season with an interception and a forced fumble.

The Tommies are coming off a historic first win as a Division I program, topping Division II Michigan Tech 12-9 on the road after their home opener against St. Francis (Ill.) was canceled due to COVID-19 issues for St. Francis.

Louis Hyde (Benilde-St. Margaret's) kicked the game-winning field goal with 59 seconds remaining before Johnson Fallah (Osseo) intercepted a pass to end Michigan Tech's final drive. Both earned Pioneer League player of the week awards. Quarterback Tommy Dolan (St. Thomas Academy) threw for 184 yards and Luke Glenna (Edina) finished with a team-high 10 tackles.

While this will be the biggest challenge for St. Thomas since making the transition to Division I, the teams will get another chance to measure progress — when they meet in St. Paul in 2024.