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College Football: UNI football opens FCS playoff with No. 5 Eastern Washington

CEDAR FALLS – UNI football is making its 22nd appearance in the NCAA Division I Football Championships.

It will be a matchup of the MVFC’s Defensive Player of the Year vs. the Big Sky Offensive Player of the year when UNI football heads to Eastern Washington for the opening round of the playoffs.

Jared Brinkman was just named the Missouri Valley Football Conference Defensive Player of the Year, and EWU’s quarterback Eric Barriere was named the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Year. It’s the second consecutive year for both players to earn the respective awards.

Barriere and UNI’s Trevor Penning are finalists for the Stats Perform FCS Walter Payton Award, reserved for the top offensive player in the nation. Penning is the only offensive lineman on the list.

This will be the eighth meeting between the two teams, UNI leads the series, 6-1. EWU’s sole win was on its home turf in 2016. This will be the fourth meeting of the teams in the championships. The first meeting was in 1985 in the quarterfinals of the championships. UNI advanced to the semifinals with a 17-14 win.
1985: W | 17-14 (H)
1989: W | 47-21 (H)
1992: W | 17-14 (H)
1994: W | 27-17 (H)
2005: W | 41-38 (H)
2015: W | 38-35 (H)
2016: L | 34-30 (A)

UNI is one of six MVFC teams, the most the conference has ever advanced and the most of any conference in this year’s championships. Montana is the only team with more playoff appearances than UNI with 25.

This will be the fifth top-10 opponent UNI has faced this season. UNI is 2-2 over top-10 teams with wins over then-ranked No. 8 South Dakota State and No. 3 Southern Illinois. The Panthers also posted a 34-16 win over Sacramento State, which is now ranked eighth in the polls. UNI has faced six teams in the FCS bracket.

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