CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa’s spring football game came and went without much drama.
The South defeated the North, 20-3.
While the excitement may have never hit a fever pitch, head coach Mark Farley said the Panthers were able to create many of the scenarios the coaches wanted.
Thirteen players were inactive for Friday night’s game and only one player, starting center Mason Neisen, suffered an injury. However, Neisen left the field under his own power after going down.
Among the most notable holdouts were quarterback Eli Dunne, tight end Briley Moore and defensive end Rickey Neal. And despite not playing in the game, Dunne received high praise afterward from his head coach.
“What I liked about this spring is Eli's development,” Farley said. “Nobody saw it tonight, but that was on purpose. I was very pleased with what we did this spring offensively. This (game) was more about seeing how the safeties played tonight, because there’s some guys out there that will start for us.”
Besides offensive line, the defensive backfield was the position group most under the microscope this spring. Farley said he was watching three safeties closely Friday — Christian Jegen, Korby Sander and either Zac Kibby or Max Steffen, more than likely. The group combined for a solid effort, but it wasn’t without a handful of blemishes. In particular, throws of 55 and 17 yards from redshirt freshman quarterback John Sullivan got behind coverage.
“It appeared (the safeties) did OK,” Farley said. “Because they should have been productive. It looked like they gave away a few plays, but those three safeties could be the starting safeties for us.”
Sullivan finished with 95 yards passing, Colton Howell threw for 88 and Jacob Keller led all quarterbacks with 117 yards. Elsewhere offensively, Terrell Carey capped off his excellent spring with a game-high 63 receiving yards. Alphonso Soko led the way in the backfield with 33 yards rushing and added another 33 yards receiving.
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Defensively the Panthers racked up six sacks with Elerson Smith’s two leading the way. Seth Thomas, Jared Brinkman, Tim Butcher and Roosevelt Lawrence also got in on the action.
However, Farley downplayed the defensive line penetration.
“If they didn’t (get penetration) I would have been disappointed,” Farley said. “Because we didn’t have the first offensive line out there at all and that was the first defensive line. I think Butcher had a good spring. And then we just have to find that other defensive end. I think (Desmond) Chapple and Thomas will fight for that other position.”
With fall camp in late August representing the next time UNI will strap on the pads, Farley said it’ll be important to get all the starters rehabbed and healthy over the summer. And while Farley came away pleased with spring practices, there still are many questions left to answer before kickoff on Sept. 1st against Montana.