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UNI, NDSU transfer quarterbacks the trend for top Missouri Valley football teams

Four of the five league leaders have first-year starters who started their careers at FBS schools.

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North Dakota State quarterback Quincy Patterson evades North Dakota's Jayson Coley at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks on Saturday, Oct.2, 2021. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO —The University of Northern Iowa offense was not at its best three weeks ago at Sacramento State, so the Panthers made a change at quarterback. They turned to Theo Day.

The transfer from Michigan State is close to being more the norm in the Missouri Valley Football Conference than the exception. Four of the five unbeaten teams in the league have first-year starting quarterbacks who transferred from an NCAA Division I FBS school.

Quincy Patterson (Virginia Tech) has North Dakota State off to a 4-0 start. Jason Shelley (Utah State) has taken over at Missouri State, which is 2-0 in the league and 3-1 overall. South Dakota State may be the best team in the FCS behind Chris Oladokun, a transfer who started his career at South Florida.

Day has UNI at 3-1 overall heading into a showdown at NDSU on Saturday afternoon at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. He’s completed 35 of 58 passes with five touchdowns against two interceptions.

“I think in the bigger picture, most schools only scholarship one quarterback but you can only play one,” said NDSU head coach Matt Entz. “So you end up with four or five on your roster. Well, everyone wants to play. It’s the most selective of the positions that people recruit.”

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Entz estimates there are 30 quarterbacks on scholarship in the Midwest, and that includes the Big Ten Conference, FCS and Division II schools. He figures there are 1,000 high school quarterbacks in the general footprint.

“Not very many become scholarship starters at the collegiate level,” Entz said. “So I think there are a surplus of kids who want to play. The competitiveness comes out. I know sometimes we want to say it’s selfishness but at the same time these guys want to play and find situations that are good for them or maybe a clearer path to getting on the field.”

That was the case with Patterson, who was a backup at Virginia Tech. He’s been solid at NDSU completing 26 of 42 passes. His running ability got the Bison past the University of North Dakota last week in a 16-10 win.

Day, 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, was ranked the top quarterback prospect coming out of the state of Michigan by a few media outlets including ESPN.com in 2017. He rarely saw the field at Michigan State appearing in two games in three years.

“He does move well,” Entz said. “He can extend plays, he can scramble, I think they can utilize him in some run game. I just think he’s a real solid football player.”

UNI head coach Mark Farley, in his Monday press conference, said Patterson and Day came to their respective schools on similar paths. Farley called Patterson very athletic with a great arm.

“He’s probably a lot like Theo in regard to learning the offense and learning his teammates,” Farley said.

Oladokun has been the best of the transfer quarterbacks completing 50 of 80 passes for 721 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s averaging 5.6 yards per carry with another touchdown.

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Missouri State has had quarterback questions for the last several years. Shelley has been the answer already throwing for over 1,000 yards with six touchdowns against one interception.

FBS transfers are nothing new to FCS schools, but certainly the advent of the NCAA transfer portal has made moving schools more trendy. UNI came into this season with two-year starter Will McElvain. Only Southern Illinois, at 2-0 in the league, has a returning starter at quarterback in Nik Baker. But the Salukis also have University of Cincinnati transfer Michael Lindauer on their roster.

Both teams also went the portal route for a running back. NDSU got TaMerik Williams from SMU and Dom Williams, the leading rusher at UNI, transferred from Kansas.

“To be able to go find a running back and a quarterback that can continue to help you, kudos to them,” Entz said. “You have to find the right people, still. I would anticipate coach Farley saying the portal is here; either try to stick your head in the sand and say it doesn’t exist or you try to find ways to utilize it to help your program. I’m guessing it’s the latter knowing him. If I can’t fight to win, make sure it can help us.”

Entz said there was no health update on center Jalen Sundell, who left the UND game with an apparent knee ailment. Defensive end Brayden Thomas suffered an apparent arm injury but stayed in the game.

Related Topics: MATT ENTZ
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