UNI, Sam Houston say two QBs better than one

(STATS) - If there is a system in football that many have never been comfortable with, it's when a team regularly uses more than one quarterback.

Fans generally want their Big Man on Campus to be the No. 1 quarterback. The prevailing thought is that when there are two quarterbacks, there really isn't one.

Try telling that to two of the national powers on the FCS level. Seventh-ranked Northern Iowa and 12th-ranked Sam Houston State are proving two can be better than one.

At UNI, the dual threat of Illinois transfer Aaron Bailey is meshing well with veteran pocket passer Sawyer Kollmorgen. For Sam Houston, last year's standout Jared Johnson is combining with UAB transfer Jeremiah Briscoe for outstanding efficiency.

The key to success appears to be the quarterbacks supporting each other in healthy competition, not having a disconnect that could divide the offense.

Sam Houston coach K.C. Keeler saw such harmony in a recent game when Johnson helped Briscoe figure out a defensive scheme. Johnson explained to Keeler, "He's either going to make me better or he's going to beat me out. Either one, it's good for the team."

"You can't make that up," Keeler later said.

For UNI and Sam Houston, the offense's focus is to make it run efficiently, not on who lines up behind center. They practice this way during the week and then try to play that way on Saturdays.

"The mindset is it's really based off the players," UNI coach Mark Farley said. "It's what we impress upon 'em. What I've found in working with two quarterbacks, and two running backs, for that matter, is when they trust each other, when they like each other, when they're both invested, as long as they're treated equally and have an opportunity - at least they know what's going on and you're honest with them - they tend to get out on that football field, when it's their turn, when it's their opportunity, (and) they play well."

UNI's rotation tends to develop during a game behind the hot hand. Bailey plays more and is the team's leading rusher, but Kollmorgen is the better passer.

At Sam Houston, Johnson had more than 4,000 total yards in a record-setting 2014 season, when the Bearkats reached the FCS playoff semifinals. But Briscoe, who's a better passer, comes off the bench to complement Johnson's mobile style. They have combined for nearly 450 total yards per game on the highest-scoring team in the FCS (51.3 points per game).

"There's no loyalty when it comes to playing time. We're going to play the best player," Keeler said. "We told Jared we have to throw the ball better. For us to win a national championship, we must throw the ball better, so we're going to bring in a guy to compete with you. And he didn't blink. They've really pushed each other, and I definitely think it has upped Jared's game because he's had to be tremendously locked in or Jeremiah is so talented he would just blow right by him.

"So it's been good, it's been good for the whole team to see this because it's not about playing time, it's about us trying to win."

Both teams play in big conference games this week. UNI visits No. 4 Illinois State in the Missouri Valley and Sam Houston takes on rival Stephen F. Austin in the Southland.

FCS GAME OF THE WEEK

The Matchup: No. 3 North Dakota State (2-1, 0-0 Missouri Valley) at No. 5 South Dakota State (3-0, 0-0)

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium in Brookings, South Dakota

Series: North Dakota State leads 58-40-5, winning the last seven meetings (most recent: 27-24 in last year's FCS playoff second round)

The Skinny: They're playing for the Dakota Marker award, but more importantly, these rivals are trying to gain an early foothold in a Missouri Valley race that boasts five Top 10 teams for the first time.

North Dakota State coming in off a bye is a scary proposition for any opponent because the Bison have won 14 straight games following an open week. QB Carson Wentz has shown no negative effects after suffering a high ankle sprain in the season opener. He will try to silence the home crowd by leading long scoring drives. The Bison defense has been great at stopping the SDSU run game in recent years.

South Dakota State probably believes NDSU's vaunted defense is a little more vulnerable considering the Bison's graduation losses. Behind QB Zach Lujan and WR Jake Wieneke, the Jackrabbits have solved some of their team's offensive concerns in the preseason. The 'Rabbits have scored in all 12 quarters this season and rank first in the Missouri Valley in scoring offense (43.3 ppg) and second in total offense (520.7 ypg). Their veteran defense, led by LBs T.J. Lally and Jesse Bobbit, can bend but must not break against NDSU's diverse attack.

Prediction: As a four-time defending FCS champion, a No. 3 ranking still seems low for NDSU. Meanwhile, SDSU has its all-time best ranking on the FCS level and it's well deserved. These teams have met five times in the last three seasons, so familiarity is high. North Dakota State, 27-21.

ALL THE PICKS

Last Week's Record: 51-8 (.864)

Overall Record: 246-44 (.848)

(All Times ET; X-Predicted Winner)

THURSDAY, OCT. 1

Lamar (2-1, 1-0 Southland) at X-No. 22 Southeastern Louisiana (2-1, 1-0), 7 p.m. - Southeastern expects to have QB D'Shaie Landor and likely RB Xavier Roberson back in the lineup after they missed the defeat at Ohio. The Lions had a school-record 484 rushing yards in last year's win at Lamar.

Alabama State (1-3, 1-2 SWAC) at X-Texas Southern (2-2, 1-2), 7:30 p.m.

FRIDAY, OCT. 2

X-Colgate (1-3) at Cornell (2-2), 7 p.m.

Georgetown (2-2) at X-No. 24 Harvard (2-0), 7:30 p.m. - If this was a basketball matchup, there would be a little more excitement in Cambridge. With a dreary forecast, taking it inside isn't such a bad idea.

Columbia (0-2, 0-0 Ivy) at X-Princeton (2-0, 0-0), 7 p.m.

X-Southern Utah (2-2, 1-0 Big Sky) at Weber State (2-2, 1-0), 8 p.m.

SATURDAY, OCT. 3

Central Connecticut State (1-3, 0-0 Northeast) at X-Duquesne (2-2, 0-0), noon

Stony Brook (2-1, 1-1 CAA) at X-No. 6 James Madison (4-0, 1-0), noon - OK, somebody has to mention the elephant in the room: Quarterback Vad Lee has 12 turnovers (10 interceptions, two lost fumbles) in JMU's first 4-0 start since 1978.

Robert Morris (1-3, 0-0 Northeast) at X-Wagner (0-3, 0-0), noon

Yale (2-0) at X-Lehigh (2-2), 12:30 p.m.

X-Valparaiso (0-3, 0-1 Pioneer) at Davidson (0-3, 0-1), 1 p.m.

X-Saint Francis (1-2) at East Tennessee State (0-4), 1 p.m.

X-Norfolk State (1-3, 1-0 MEAC) at Howard (0-4, 0-2), 1 p.m.

No. 7 Northern Iowa (2-1, 0-0 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 4 Illinois State (2-1, 0-0), 1 p.m. UNI has beaten five Top 10 teams in the last two years. Two were Illinois State and North Dakota State last year, but this season those two offer the Panthers back-to-back assignments on the road in an eight-day span.

Morehead State (2-2, 1-0 Pioneer) at X-Jacksonville (3-0, 1-0), 1 p.m.

X-Bryant (2-1) at Monmouth (1-3), 1 p.m.

X-Dayton (3-0, 0-0 Pioneer) at Stetson (1-2, 0-1), 1 p.m.

X-Albany (2-2) at Holy Cross (1-2), 1:05 p.m.

Bucknell (2-1) at X-VMI (1-3), 1:30 p.m.

X-Morgan State (1-2, 1-0 MEAC) at Delaware State (0-3, 0-0), 2 p.m.

X-North Carolina A&T (2-1, 0-0 MEAC) at Hampton (2-2, 1-1), 1 p.m.

Mississippi Valley State (0-4) at X-No. 1 Jacksonville State (3-1), 2 p.m. - Jerry Rice's wide receiver nephew Joshua Rice is a member of the MVSU program. Jerry couldn't even rescue the visitors in this mismatch.

Northwestern State (0-4, 0-2 Southland) at X-Incarnate Word (2-2, 1-1), 3 p.m.

X-No. 21 Indiana State (2-1, 0-0 Missouri Valley) at Missouri State (1-2, 0-0), 3 p.m. The host Bears are the only Missouri Valley team not to receive a vote toward the STATS FCS Top 25, so here's a chance for the Dave Steckel era to gain momentum. Sure, but beware Indiana State's "Circle of Death" trick play.

X-No. 10 Youngstown State (2-1, 0-0 Missouri Valley) at South Dakota (2-1, 0-0), 3 p.m. Both defenses have been stout to open the season. It must mean this will be a 41-35 kind of game.

X-No. 18 Liberty (2-2) at Georgia State (1-2), 3:30 p.m. - Georgia State isn't exactly an FBS power, going 2-25 in its brief time since jumping from the FCS. So it's important for the Flames to get a "W" on the resume should they not go on to claim the Big South's automatic playoff bid again.

Elon (2-2, 1-0 CAA) at X-No. 20 New Hampshire (2-2, 0-1), 3:30 p.m. There's been a whopping 29 sacks in UNH's four games. At least the Wildcats have 17 of them, led by Cam Shorey's four.

X-Dartmouth (2-0, 0-0 Ivy) at Penn (1-1, 0-0), 3:30 p.m.

Maine (1-2, 1-0 CAA) at X-No. 19 Richmond (2-1, 0-0), 3:30 p.m. In the Spiders' last game, linebacker Jason Day scored on an interception return against VMI. The last time he caused a turnover at Robins Stadium was as a member of the Spiders' lacrosse team.

Presbyterian (1-3) at X-Western Carolina (1-2), 3:30 p.m.

X-No. 23 McNeese State (3-0, 2-0 Southland) at Nicholls (0-3, 0-1), 4 p.m. - Maybe McNeese doesn't think run first after all. Fourteen different players have caught at least one pass through three games.

X-Bethune-Cookman (3-1, 1-0 MEAC) at North Carolina Central (1-2, 0-0), 4 p.m.

Stephen F. Austin (0-4, 0-2 Southland) vs. X-No. 12 Sam Houston State (1-2, 1-1) in Houston, 4 p.m. - Sam Houston coach K.C. Keeler says SFA may be the best 0-4 team in college football, and he might be right. But rivalry or not, the Bearkats shouldn't be losing to an 0-4 team in the 90th "Battle of the Piney Woods.

Marist (1-3, 0-1 Pioneer) at X-San Diego (2-1, 1-0), 4 p.m.

X-No. 13 Montana (2-2, 1-0 Big Sky) at UC Davis (0-4, 0-1), 4 p.m. - It sounds great that Griz kicker Daniel Sullivan has an FCS-high nine field goals, but they're all under 30 yards because the offense has scored a touchdown on only 12 of 38 trips to an opponent's red zone.

Southern Illinois (1-2, 0-0 Missouri Valley) at X-Western Illinois (1-2, 0-0), 4 p.m.

X-Alcorn State (3-1, 2-0 SWAC) at Arkansas-Pine Bluff (1-3), 5 p.m.

X-Eastern Illinois (0-3, 0-0 Ohio Valley) at Austin Peay (0-4, 0-1), 5 p.m.

North Dakota (3-1, 1-0 Big Sky) at X-No. 16 Portland State (3-0, 1-0), 5:05 p.m. - Raise your hand if you guessed these would be the only two Big Sky teams to enter October with three wins. Somebody ... anybody ...

Rhode Island (0-4) at X-Brown (0-2), 6 p.m.

X-Drake (2-2, 1-0 Pioneer) at Campbell (2-2, 0-1), 4 p.m.

Alabama A&M (1-2) at X-No. 2 Coastal Carolina (4-0), 6 p.m. - The Chanticleers must have known they would be 4-0 because Homecoming conveniently offers the chance to gain their 100th all-time win.

X-No. 15 Fordham (3-1, 0-0 Patriot) at Lafayette (1-3, 0-0), 6 p.m. - The last two Patriot League champions square off, and the home team has won the last six meetings. Fordham's only loss to a Patriot team since the start of the 2013 season was at Lafayette that year.

X-Wofford (2-2, 0-0 Southern) at Mercer (2-1, 0-0), 6 p.m.

Abilene Christian (2-1, 2-0 Southland) at X-Central Arkansas (1-2, 1-0), 7 p.m.

South Carolina State (2-1) at X-Furman (2-2), 7 p.m.

X-Grambling State (2-2, 2-0 SWAC) at Jackson State (1-3, 1-1), 7 p.m.

X-No. 11 Montana State (2-1, 1-0 Big Sky) at Northern Arizona (2-2, 0-1), 7 p.m. The visiting Bobcats had a terrific win over Cal Poly last Saturday, but they've lost five of their last seven road games. NAU coach Jerome Souers (67-65 Big Sky record) is one win shy of tying Chris Ault for the most all-time wins within the conference.

X-Florida A&M (0-4, 0-1 MEAC) at Savannah State (0-3, 0-1), 7 p.m.

X-No. 3 North Dakota State (2-1, 0-0 Missouri Valley) at No. 5 South Dakota State (3-0, 0-0), 7 p.m. - The FCS Game of the Week.

Murray State (1-3, 0-1 Ohio Valley) at X-Southeast Missouri State (1-3, 0-0), 7 p.m.

X-UT Martin (1-2, 0-1 Ohio Valley) at Tennessee Tech (2-2, 1-0), 7 p.m.

No. 25 William & Mary (2-1, 1-0 CAA) at X-Delaware (1-3, 0-1), 7:30 p.m. - It's a terrific matchup of running games with Tribe veterans Mikal Abdul-Saboor and Kendall Anderson dueling against Delaware youngsters Thomas Jefferson and Kareem Williams.

No. 17 Eastern Kentucky (2-1) at X-Kentucky (3-1), 7:30 p.m. EKU will play in the memory of Joey Kraemer, a redshirt freshman defensive lineman who was killed in a single-vehicle accident last weekend.

College of Faith at X-Houston Baptist (1-3), 8 p.m.

Idaho State (1-3, 0-1 Big Sky) at X-Cal Poly (1-3, 0-1), 9:05 p.m.

Northern Colorado (2-2, 0-2 Big Sky) at X-Sacramento State (1-3, 0-1), 9:05 p.m.

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