116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa football heads into its bye week with a lot of positives in tow.
After its 44-3 rout of FCS newcomer St. Thomas on Saturday at the UNI-Dome, the Panthers (2-1) have few injuries, an emerging run game with four capable ball carriers, a promising quarterback poised to improve and a defense that’s allowed just 11.7 points per game while creating six takeaways.
On top of those positives, Coach Mark Farley got the keys to UNI’s new outdoor practice facility last Friday and the Panthers will have their first practice on the new artificial turf surface on Tuesday.
“It’s a huge deal because it comes at a great time,” Farley said. “We’ve been very fortunate, that’s why this season is exciting for us, for me, (because) we’ve never had these opportunities (for practice). So now it’s on us. It’s our responsibility to make things right and to get these guys ready (because) we don’t have to dance around schedules in the Dome that we don’t control.”
When it comes to the in-game positives, Farley said he thought quarterback Theo Day was “good” in his first start.
“It was his first start since 2017 (in high school) when you put it in perspective,” Farley said. “He could have had better accuracy, but he stood in the pocket, he ran the plays and now we’ve got something to build off of and learn from when we watch tape.”
Elsewhere on offense, Farley plans to continue the committee at running back as all four continue to make steady contributions. The quartet ran 26 times in the win Saturday for 165 yards with touchdowns from Dom Williams, Vance McShane and Bradrick Shaw.
“We put (the 2005) team in the Hall of Fame (Friday) night and the Hall of Fame team had Terrance Freeney, David Horne and Corey Lewis and nobody said anything at that time that those three guys carried the rock for us and for 2,000 yards,” Farley said. “So, when you can keep a fresh running back back there and you have a big back and a small back to counter with, that gets hard on a defense.”
Headed into its bye week, Farley said UNI is working on honing the offensive package to Day’s strengths, continuing to find the best situations for each of the running backs and also finding more sub-packages and volume for its playbook on defense.
“If we’re good at what we do and we’re good teachers and we package this stuff right, we can carry volume,” Farley said. “And if we can carry volume, then people have to get ready for us in two different ways.”
When the Panthers host their Missouri Valley Football Conference opener on Oct. 2 against Youngstown State, Logan Wolf (hamstring) and Matthew Vanderslice (undisclosed) are probable. Wide receiver Tysen Kershaw (undisclosed), however, remains questionable.