UNI working toward potential bounce-back

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(STATS) - Last season's 5-6 finish was just the third time Northern Iowa finished below .500 in coach Mark Farley's 16 seasons, so it's fostered a high level of intensity during the Panthers' spring practice.

"We've got a lot of talent on our team right now," redshirt junior quarterback Eli Dunne, the returning starter, said. "Obviously, last season was disappointing, but there's a lot of high expectations for this year. We want to take a step forward, and our guys have been working really hard to get things done."

A bounce-back season appears likely as UNI returns eight starters on offense and nine on defense, and its roster has an intriguing mix of energized youth and veteran experience. Farley said the Panthers have been a more detail-oriented team during spring drills, which conclude on Saturday. They do not have a formal spring game this year.

The 6-foot-5, 232-pound Dunne came on strong late last season, making four starts. He threw for a career-high 418 yards in a Missouri Valley Football Conference win over Missouri State, becoming the first UNI quarterback to pass for more than 400 in a game since 2009.

Farley brings a 134-67 career record into the 2017 season. The Panthers open the campaign on Sept. 2 at Iowa State, a Big-12 program they beat 25-20 last year.