116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS — Emphasizing special teams ahead of its upset win at then No. 6 South Dakota State last week paid off for Northern Iowa.
Matthew Cook received Missouri Valley Conference special teams player of the week honors after converting all four of his field goals against the Jackrabbits — including a career-long from 55 yards — and punter Nate Murphy had three of his five punts downed at the SDSU 5, 14 and 18 to help prevent a Jackrabbits comeback.
“There were differences in practice (last week) of what we wanted to accomplish and how we emphasize it to the players,” UNI Coach Mark Farley said Monday at his weekly news conference. “It was a point of emphasis to improve that part of our game because even when it was good, it wasn’t making a difference. That part of the game has to swing the pendulum when (all things are equal) out there on the field.”
UNI continues to be challenged by injuries
Middle linebacker Spencer Cuvelier (shoulder) missed Saturday’s game and is doubtful for Saturday’s matchup against No. 3 Southern Illinois (6-1, 4-0). Nickel linebacker Alfonzo Lambert returned to the lineup and Riley Van Whye stepped into Cuvelier’s spot and Bryce Flater played the will.
“Riley stood out to me. Riley took (Spencer’s) role (and) someone had to be the communicator,” Farley said. “He and Flater played a great game, as did Alfonzo Lambert.”
Furthermore, safety Benny Sapp III was lost in the first quarter Saturday due to a targeting penalty. Redshirt freshman Edwin Dearman replaced Sapp and Farley was complimentary of his performance Monday.
“The question mark was Edwin and Edwin answered it with flying colors,” Farley said. “He really held us (up) so we could play the defense — knowing that he was being able to handle the responsibilities within it.”
Scouting Southern Illinois
Another ranked opponent awaits UNI on Saturday in Southern Illinois. The Salukis have won five straight and their only loss was to Division I Kansas State, 31-23.
SIU’s offense is led by quarterback Nic Baker. The sophomore is first in the MVFC with 18 touchdowns and third in the league with 1,889 passing yards.
“He’s a competitor,” Farley said of Baker. “He’ll be a full-time job, because you cover everybody and then he’s going to compete until that down is over. It will be another game like last week as far as trying to get ready for a full game because (they’ve) got such a balanced football team.”