116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS — While much of the attention has been on quarterback Theo Day since his Northern Iowa debut in the second half of last week’s 34-16 win at Sacramento State, the breakout performance of the Panthers’ running game deserves as much or more attention.
For the first time since late November 2019, UNI produced a 200-yard plus effort on the ground.
Transfer running backs Dom Williams, Vance McShane and Bradrick Shaw each played a pivotal role in the breakout performance, but the Panthers’ offensive line looked more in sync and aggressive with its run blocks than it has since offensive line coach Ryan Clanton and offensive coordinator Shawn Watson began working together in 2020.
Looking back on the game, UNI head coach Mark Farley went out of his way this week to point out center Erik Sorensen’s contributions.
“The offensive line play was definitely very good. I think Erik Sorensen was the one I’d like to mention, because he’s a guy that’s been moved around for four years (from) guard to center, but he really stood out with his play at the center and some of the things he was doing to make the protection work as much as make the run game work,” Farley said. “He was really aware of things that were going on that made some plays happen because of his awareness.”
Sorensen acknowledged that the change to center and making protection calls comes with a heavier workload than playing guard, but he enjoys the additional time in the film room.
“I absolutely love it. I love going up to our coaches’ offices. Especially with Coach Clanton and (assistant offensive line) Coach (Brandon) Keith up there,” Sorensen said. “They’re sitting down with me watching film and we’re breaking down defenses probably three or four times a week. I love having the extra responsibility because most of the time it makes gameday a lot easier.”
The redshirt junior from Waukee said he chose UNI for its history as a winning program and its family culture. Cedar Falls has become like a second home for him. Being roommates with All-American Trevor Penning and Trevor’s brother, Jared, has pushed him to stay committed to the grind it took to see his first regular action in 2019 with 11 games played and three starts.
“Living with Trevor and playing with Trevor, coming (to UNI) with Trevor has just been awesome,” Sorensen said. “He pushes you every day. (People) have seen his run (blocking) demeanor in the game and it’s just one of the things where it’s like, wow, this dude’s a mauler. It inspired me to be a better run blocker.”
With the home opener coming up on Saturday against St. Thomas, he’s looking forward to playing in front of a regular crowd and getting a chance to bring more fans to the UNI-Dome this season.
“I’m excited to see the Dome just electric again. We haven’t seen it electric, honestly, since probably 2017 when I first got here,” Sorensen said. “Coach Farley even mentioned during preseason camp, if you’re a good team you’ll bring in a lot of fans, and I feel like we’re on that trajectory to be a good team to bring in those fans.”