116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS — As valuable as Northern Iowa’s consecutive upsets of top-10 opponents South Dakota State (No. 6) and Southern Illinois (No. 3) have been for its FCS playoff hopes, the two games have also provided valuable film.
In Saturday’s win over the Salukis, UNI’s defense was tested throughout the game by quarterback Nic Baker, but the Panthers intercepted the sophomore twice, sacked him three times and forced two fumbles.
“There’s a lot of things that happened in that game that we can learn from by watching the tape,” Farley said. “They got us on our heels. They hit us on a couple double moves on our (defensive backs) and got behind us. The resilience is what to talk about. It came down to the last four plays of the game from the 9-yard line and (we) made four outstanding plays.”
As UNI’s defense — ranked second in the FCS in takeaways — continues to find ways to improve, its special teams has rivaled the defense in terms of productivity the past two weeks.
Punter Nate Murphy was named the MVFC special teams player of the week for his performance against SIU that included five punts with an average of 49.2 yards, a season-long punt of 59 yards and two punts inside the SIU 20.
Looking back on the special teams play the past two weeks, Farley pointed out the importance of their new outdoor turf practice facility.
“The outdoor field has been huge. No one will ever know the difference that it’s made,” Farley said. “To practice in these elements makes all the difference in the world of how you’re going to play on Saturday.”
A large part of UNI’s comeback Saturday was attributable to its offense switching to 12 personnel (one running back and two tight ends) and committing to its run game.
Bradrick Shaw totaled a season-high 24 carries and 126 yards to lead all rushers.
Farley admitted Monday that the halftime adjustment was undoubtedly a tell of their intentions to run the ball, but he knew the ground game was necessary to make a comeback.
“In the first half we really couldn’t establish anything with consistency,” Farley said. “I felt against that particular defense that was the best way to go. When we did that it put them on their heels enough we could win the third quarter and play out the fourth.”
Despite the good vibes of the past two wins, injuries continue to mount for UNI (5-3, 3-2).
Right guard Justin Peine was lost in the second half of Saturday’s win and tackle Tristan Roper was forced into action out of position.
“That (injury) looked tough,” Farley said after Saturday’s win. “I don’t know that you’ll see him again (this season). That hurt more than you know because we were really rushing the ball well and the replacement guard on that side, (Hayden Amos), is the same one that’s still out from three weeks ago.”
Farley said wide receivers Isaiah Weston and Quan Hampton and defensive back Omar Brown are questionable for Saturday’s game at Illinois State after being unable to finish Saturday’s win against SIU.