CEDAR FALLS — Just about everything went according to plan for Northern Iowa in its 46-7 first-round playoff victory over Monmouth on Saturday.
The Panthers held the Hawks to just 202 total yards and a measly 61 yards rushing. That continued what’s been a successful blueprint in the second half of the season by putting a priority on stopping their opponents’ run game.
UNI racked up a season-high 246 rushing yards, however many of those yards came in the second half when the game was out of hand. The game-breaking yardage came courtesy Eli Dunne — returning from a chest injury he suffered Week 11 against Missouri State — who threw for 260 yards and four touchdowns. Dunne connected with Daurice Fountain 10 times in Saturday’s win, which was a career-high for the senior, and threw all four of his touchdowns in the first half.
UNI’s passing numbers and overall aggressiveness early on with its aerial attack were a bit of a surprise Saturday considering Dunne’s health.
“I thought Eli really did a nice job,” Farley said. “They played a lot of man coverage against us and his long ball was good. But yet his accuracy with the short (passing) game was good. He got the ball out on time, there’s no question he had one of his better football games for us. I was weary of how he’d perform coming off the (injury) and he definitely did a great job.”
While UNI’s defense continued its championship-caliber play, intercepting quarterback Kenji Bahar three times, it was the step forward by its offense that looks to have arrived at a perfect time.
“We executed the (game) plan very well. It may appear to you that it came off very well, and it did, but it was not easy by any means,” Farley said. “That was a very good plan of how (the coaching staff) was trying to create things on offense and defense. I just felt that we had a really good plan and our players did an awesome job executing that plan. We actually did make some adjustments very early on in the game that we saw may have created some problems.”
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With fifth seed South Dakota State (9-2) up next, might Farley air it out Saturday in Brookings, S.D.?
“It always starts with the run game,” Farley said. “I don’t think I’ve said anything different over all the years. Once you establish the run, then you have the ability to start to do a lot of things. But without the establishment of a run game it’s hard to create a run game off your pass game.”
After tying for second in the FCS’ toughest conference, UNI totaled 10 players on the all-conference teams announced Monday.
First-team: senior wide receiver Daurice Fountain, senior defensive lineman Adam Reth, senior linebacker Jared Farley, senior defensive back Elijah Campbell.
Second-team: senior center Lee Carhart, junior defensive end/outside linebacker Rickey Neal, senior punter Sam Kuhter.
Honorable mention: junior running back Marcus Weymiller, sophomore tight end Briley Moore, senior defensive back Malcolm Washington.