116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS — Putting up 52 points and holding its opponent below 100 yards rushing was a perfect bounce-back game for Northern Iowa on Saturday.
Facing a Week 4 must-win, the Panthers (1-3, 1-1) put together their most complete game of the young football season in a 52-17 blowout of Western Illinois and the hope moving forward is it's a sign of things to come.
“It’s a jumping off point no matter what (because) it was what the players had to do on the road,” UNI Coach Mark Farley said. “They did a nice job preparing themselves. They had to do it at Western (Illinois) which is not the most exciting place to play — you’ve got to bring your own energy to make it happen.
“Just overall I was pleased with the fact of making the turnovers (and) creating the sacks.”
UNI’s defense got out of its season-long funk against the Leathernecks — intercepting three passes and collecting four sacks.
Junior defensive back Woo Governor turned both of his interceptions into touchdowns with returns of 43 and 49 yards and was named the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s defensive player of the week on Sunday.
“He’s been here (three) years now and came in here wanting to be the starter right out of the gate, but really applied himself and started practicing like he plays,” Farley said. “He practices as hard on Tuesday as he plays on Saturday. Once he did that, now he’s getting all the production. He’s putting himself in position to win.”
Another encouraging development with UNI’s defense in Saturday’s win was redshirt freshman Cannon Butler recording a sack and two tackles in his first career start.
Asked if Butler can be a part of the answers the Panthers continue to look for on their defensive line, Farley seemed optimistic.
“I was really happy with Cannon,” Farley said. “At UNI (if) you get an opportunity and you make a play during your opportunity, you’ll get more opportunities. Cannon Butler created more opportunities for himself with how he played, and not just one or two plays, he played like that every down.
“I feel much better now about that configuration of (our) defensive front.”
UNI’s passing game continued to rack up big numbers as Theo Day completed 23 of 29 passes for 260 yards and three touchdowns. The junior ranks first in the MVFC and ninth in the FCS in passing yards.
“He’s as good a throwing quarterback that you’ve seen (here),” Farley said. “I just think his confidence is what’s making his game right now.”
After not playing against WIU, Farley offered little Monday on the injury status of right tackle Nick Ellis and wide receiver Logan Wolf, but seemed to indicate that Wolf’s likeliest to return first.
UNI hosts Indiana State (1-2) Saturday at 4 p.m. (ESPN+).