116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS — With a bye week later than any other in his entire coaching career, Northern Iowa football coach Mark Farley put together a practice schedule for his team unlike any other.
Coming off their devastating, 31-28, loss to No. 1 South Dakota State, Farley gave his Panthers (5-5, 4-3) a combined six days off in the two weeks between the loss to the Jackrabbits and this Saturday’s regular-season finale at South Dakota.
Asked if he would have been open to such a schedule a decade ago, Farley laughed and gave a quick response.
“Never,” Farley said. “Just because it’s so late in the season and we’ve been doing this since Aug. 3 — I’ll be interested to see them (practice) today — but I thought it was more of a need to get the rest and the energy back and get the health back as much as installing anything.”
Farley admitted Monday that despite having time to rest and reset, he’s still not over the loss to SDSU, but acknowledged how getting back to practice late last week was good medicine for everyone.
“We practiced on Wednesday and Thursday. Went pretty hard outside on Wednesday and Thursday,” Farley said. “A lot of group work, a lot of teamwork. They’ve had time off and I think that was the most important thing, but yet the practices were not just getting through the practice, they were pretty intense practices.”
Headed into Saturday’s matchup against the Coyotes (3-7, 2-5) the Panthers continue to hold potential hopes of a playoff at-large bid.
A number of games will need to work out in their favor this weekend, beyond taking care of business against a South Dakota team with only two Missouri Valley Football Conference wins. Both were impressive upsets of No. 14 Southern Illinois and Missouri State inside the friendly confines of its DakotaDome.
“Coach (Bob Nielson) always does a great job. He’s always got a good plan,” Farley said. “He throws the football around. They’re aggressive on defense, but offensively they do a lot of things schematically that causes some problems.
“A lot of his calls are a no-huddle type offense.”
What is working in UNI’s favor as Sunday’s Selection Show approaches is the MVFC holding the top spot among the FCS conferences in the Sagarin ratings, including the Panthers ranked 10th in the metric.
The 2021 playoffs also included an MVFC-record six teams and the conference’s 62 playoff wins the past eight seasons is nearly double of the Colonial Athletic Association’s, which sits second with 36 wins the past eight years.
“I didn’t study (this week’s results) too much, because I got more into (our) game itself,'' Farley said. “That’s totally out of our hands right now.”
After missing the game against South Dakota State, defensive tackle Khristian Boyd (foot) remains questionable for Saturday’s game at South Dakota. Farley revealed Monday that Boyd did not participate in either of last week’s two practices.