116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS — Everything that’s come along with playing spring football as COVID-19 continues to make its presence felt seems like it’s started to show its wear on Northern Iowa football coach Mark Farley.
UNI (3-3) was scheduled to play South Dakota (1-3) last Friday night, but the game was canceled Thursday morning after positive COVID-19 tests within the Coyotes Tier 1 personnel.
The cancellation marked the first of the Panthers’ spring season and made Farley begin to think more about the nature of playing this spring.
“We weren’t even close to full strength last week had we played,” Farley said. “We’ll find out where we’re at today. With all the testing and stuff — I think our tests are on Wednesday — anymore I don’t find anything out until Friday, so I just adapt and adjust and deal with it.”
While it wasn’t until week seven of eight for UNI to suffer its first postponement or cancellation, it has dealt with roster losses each week from COVID-19 protocols, including starting quarterback Will McElvain missing games against Missouri State and Western Illinois. Add traditional football injuries to the pile of COVID-19 losses and the attrition has been a lot to overcome.
Asked if regular testing for the virus has gone on long enough, Farley instead chose to speak to the promise he sees with Iowa’s vaccine rollout.
“That’s a great question, because who’s going to make that decision of when testing stops?” Farley said. “But, I do believe this, with all the vaccines that are still out there I can just tell in our vicinity anyway there’s a light at the end of this tunnel. When that is, we hope it will be sometime this summer.”
Game vs. North Dakota State awaits
As all the off-field drama continues to rage on, UNI faces its toughest test yet this spring in its season-finale. Top-ranked North Dakota State (4-1) visits the UNI-Dome this Saturday for a 4 p.m. kickoff and is on a three-game winning streak after being upset by Southern Illinois in week two.
Since its loss to SIU, the Bison have rotated former Iowa State quarterback Zeb Noland and freshman QB Cam Miller, a Solon graduate.
“The offense is the same, it’s just what they can do with the quarterback,” Farley said. “The offense changed when they had (Carson) Wentz, the offense changed when they had (Trey) Lance and the offense is tweaked a little bit to fit the quarterback they’re playing with now.”
Asked if a win over No. 1 would put UNI back in the playoff picture at 4-3, Farley says his focus is on getting a team ready to play as challenges from COVID-19 protocols persist.
“That’s the challenge right now — it’s not just winning and losing football games — it’s having a team ready then losing a player because of COVID and then trying to get another guy ready within 12 to 24 hours,” Farley said. “I’ve dealt with it every week that I’ve had a new football team. That wears you out.”