CEDAR FALLS — Mark Farley described his Northern Iowa football team’s Saturday night shootout versus Cal Poly as “another step forward” on Monday.
Combine the discipline his defense’s front seven (front eight, or nine, really) had to maintain against the triple-option with the poise the offense had to operate with to answer an unexpected vertical passing game and there’s not much at all to be upset with after a 45-38 overtime victory.
“I thought the resilience of how they played the fourth quarter and what they did in the overtime was excellent,” Farley said.
“I told you when we played Iowa State I thought we played good, and I don’t say that often when we don’t win. This past week — you go watch that film — and I thought we played very good.”
The Panthers did play ‘very good’ against Cal Poly. It became a requirement when the Mustangs found momentum with a vertical passing game early in the first half. The momentum lasted throughout regulation, but thankfully for the Panthers, didn’t last into overtime.
“...We gave up the plays in the secondary, but (those plays) are really not as concerning to me as other people because I knew what I was playing and I knew what we were trying to stop and we did what we were supposed to do.” Farley said. “We made some errors and if we can take those errors and eliminate them and improve upon them like we did from the previous week then we’ll be a better football team.”
The secondary was one of only a couple segments of the team that Farley mentioned as having struggles on Monday. On the positive side of those struggles, Xavior Williams and Jake Hartford emerged in the secondary.
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Williams, a redshirt freshman cornerback, started the second half and stayed in the remainder of the game. Hartford, also a redshirt freshman, was subbed in during the second half to play nickel linebacker and helped slow down Cal Poly’s unexpected passing game while providing productive run support with his combination of size and speed.
The book of Eli
Eli Dunne continued to produce amid a couple more errors on Saturday to the tune of 325 yards passing and four touchdowns. Farley wants to see more out of the running game — likely something he anticipates being able to help Dunne’s production — but, nonetheless, he maintains a relentless confidence in his junior signal-caller.
“Once he gets into the game, and once he gets into the flow of things he’s been very good. His numbers speak for themselves,” Farley said. “We have a better understanding through the coaching system of what he is good at, and what he can handle. We have to eliminate the intercepts. But if you took the intercepts out of the game the past two weeks he’s performed at a very high level. We have to put him in the right position. Give him the right keys. But there’s no question he’s improved. He needs to continue to evolve like the rest of (the team).”
UNI football injury update
UNI’s matchup this past Saturday against Cal Poly took its toll on the Panthers.
Farley called Ezra Szczyrbak and Marcus Weymiller’s statuses questionable on Monday. He did not provide a timetable for Szczyrbak’s return, but said that he’s likely out this week after dislocating his elbow in the second half while receiving snaps at guard.
Jalen Rima injured what was an already bruised shoulder during Saturday’s opening kickoff. Rima took two hard hits almost simultaneously on the return and never came back to the game. He emerged at halftime without pads and with a sling on his left arm. He’s not expected to play this week at Southern Utah (7 p.m.), which would give the sophomore wideout two weeks to heal given the Panthers’ bye week is next week.