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UNI defense trying to catch the offense

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(STATS) - Northern Iowa is reloading its defense for the 2016 season, and the Panthers were happy with some of the steps taken during spring practices.

But with only four returning starters, there is plenty of work ahead. So it wasn't surprising when the offense beat the defense 45-25 in the team's spring game in Cedar Falls on Friday night.

A modified scoring system was used to reward different plays. Wide receiver Marcus Weymiller had eight receptions for 129 yards and two touchdowns, while backup quarterback Eli Dunne totaled 170 yards.

For the defense, Ray Buchanan Jr. had an interception and Damon Hendrix collected a game-high five tackles.

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UNI is coming off a 9-5 season in which it tied for third place in the Missouri Valley Football Conference and reached the national quarterfinals before finishing with a No. 8 ranking in the STATS FCS Top 25.

All-America linebacker Brett McMakin opted for early entry into the NFL draft, so the Panthers' only returning starters on defense are end Karter Schult, tackle Adam Reth, and linebackers Jake Farley and D'Shawn Dexter.

The offense will be ahead of the defense with nine returning starters, including two 1,000-yard rushers in quarterback Aaron Bailey and running back Tyvis Smith.

UNI, which has made 18 appearances in the FCS playoffs, will open its season Sept. 3 at Iowa State.