College Football

Mark Farley: UNI football 'worked our way into' FCS Playoffs

Panthers host Monmouth in first round

Northern Iowa head coach Mark Farley takes the field with his team before playing Iowa State Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. (Scott Morgan/freelance)
Northern Iowa head coach Mark Farley takes the field with his team before playing Iowa State Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. (Scott Morgan/freelance)

CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa now knows who and where it will play in the FCS Playoffs.

Monmouth (9-2, 4-1 Big South) will travel to Cedar Falls on Saturday for a 4 p.m. first-round matchup with the Panthers (7-4, 6-2 MVFC) at the UNI-Dome.

“It’s a good day,” UNI head coach Mark Farley said. “Worked our way into this. Proud of our players and proud of our football team right now. They’re excited to be in it. Then, when they showed that we’re playing Monmouth and we got a home game that was even more exciting.”

Monmouth — making its first ever FCS Playoffs appearance — was the second-place finisher in the Big South Conference after losing 52-21 in its regular-season finale on Saturday to Kennesaw State with the Big South title on the line. The Hawks, who operate a balanced offense that averages 35 points per game, turned it over a season-high five times in their loss to the Owls.

Farley mentioned that he anticipates getting at least a couple more injured players back for Saturday, including offensive lineman Bryce Sweeney. Saturday’s 41-3 win over Indiana State saw the return of slot-receiver Aaron Graham and left tackle Cal Twait. Eli Dunne’s status is still uncertain for Saturday at this point, but having a home game only helps his and all other injured Panthers in their ability to get back on the field.

“One, it gives us another chance to play in the Dome. Two, there also is an element of being prepared because you get an extra day that you don’t have to travel and that is a factor sometimes when you get this deep into it,” Farley said. “There’s a comfort zone, no question, that you get to practice here and play here and I know our players really enjoy playing here.”

Should UNI win its first-round game, it will make a return trip to Brookings, S.D., to take on No. 5 seed South Dakota State (9-2, 6-2). UNI defeated SDSU 38-18 in a Week 7 matchup in Brookings.

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