116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS — Perhaps it was a veteran coach keeping his cards close to the vest, or maybe Northern Iowa football coach Mark Farley genuinely hasn’t made his mind up yet on who will start at quarterback for Saturday’s season opener at No. 7 Iowa State.
Asked who his starter will be against the Cyclones, Farley did offer some detail on how the competition has gone, but said he still needed to see one more practice.
“Here’s what it comes down to; number one the purpose was to create competition within the quarterback position. To me, it really paid its dividends with how Will (McElvain) stepped his game up,” Farley said. “Due to that he’s one of the two I’ll decide from today. The other one is Theo Day. We narrowed it to two at the beginning of last week.”
The 21st-year coach’s high praise for the two-year incumbent starter McElvain, though, seemed to all but indicate who will be under center at Jack-Trice Stadium.
“Will has really ramped up his game, elevated his game and did the things that he needed to do to become a better quarterback for us,” Farley said. “Plus, his experience has really helped him to go to another level with his game.”
The Panthers are the healthiest they’ve been since the beginning of the 2019 season and holding their preseason camp at Memorial Stadium in Waterloo on its artificial turf surface seems to have played a large role in that.
“We didn’t lose anybody for the season like we have in years past in camp, (but) of course we had our ankles, hamstrings and the soft-tissue injuries. We had those just because of fatigue,” Farley said. “I would expect as of right now everybody is available. There’s a couple that are questionable right now.”
There was also positive news regarding linebacker Bryce Flater and tight end Jayden Scott. Both were recovering from offseason surgeries and had their contact limited in camp, but both progressed into full contact and are on track to play significant roles this season.
When it comes to Saturday’s matchup it’s undoubtedly the best, most highly-regarded Iowa State team UNI has ever faced.
Cyclones running back Breece Hall, who didn’t play in the 2019 triple-overtime thriller, will be a new challenge for the Panthers and Farley says he sees a lot of a former UNI All-America running back in Hall.
“He reminds me of David Johnson,” Farley said. “When I say that he’s a big, strong tailback. He’s got breakaway speed. He’s got that little stop-and-go to him. He seems like a really quality person (too).”
Beyond football, Saturday’s game is also important financially for UNI as it’ll receive $650,000 to make its trip to Ames. The matchup produces outstanding attendance and undoubtedly is a boost for the local and state economy.
“From my understanding, knowing coach Campbell, is these games are important to him, too. Because, this is his background,” Farley said. “He came from Division III and came up the ranks and didn’t get a job just because of his last name or maybe the shirt that he wore as a player. This is a huge game to us, whether it’s Iowa or Iowa State.”