CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa is battling a number of injuries and the absence of offensive coordinator John Bond as the postseason continues.
Bond has been absent over the past couple weeks due to a family matter, forcing wide receivers coach Pat McCann into play-calling duties the past two games. McCann’s debut came in a 37-0 win over Missouri State. His most recent play-calling effort produced just enough points to send the Panthers to California for a second-pround playoff matchup against sixth-seeded UC Davis (9-2).
After Saturday’s 16-13 win over Lamar, UNI coach Mark Farley had high praise for McCann. Monday, Farley explained the team effort that’s gone into the last two gameplans.
“There’s probably more group involvement than maybe there was before, which enhances what they’re doing,” Farley said. “Because you’ve got (coaches) that are really smart in the run game, (coaches) that are really sharp in the pass game and then (coaches) that are trying to marry it together. Because of the experience of going through it one time, it’s like going from your first game to your second game, there’s huge growth there.”
Along with the challenges of working with a new play-caller, the Panthers have suffered a number of injuries in recent weeks. Defensive back Isaiah Nimmers suffered a knee injury Saturday that forced freshman Shakespeare Williams into action.
Elsewhere on UNI’s defense, linebacker Blake Thomas and defensive back Xavior Williams continue to be questionable.
“We’ll have to do some things within our coverage and within our secondary to shore things up because of the loss of some players at the linebacker (position) and the secondary,” Farley said. “I think Blake will play. Xavior, that’s one that’s in question. That’ll probably be in question until game time, I’m guessing.”
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The Panthers face one of the FCS’ most prolific passing attacks on Saturday in Sacramento when they take on Big Sky Conference champion UC Davis. The Aggies average nearly 330 yards passing per game and have one of college football’s best wide receivers in Keelan Doss. Doss, a senior, has put together back-to-back 100-plus reception and 1,000-yard seasons in head coach Dan Hawkins’ dynamic offense.
“There’s only two games that they did not score in, and otherwise they’re putting 45, 50 points on everybody” Farley said. “(Doss) is just good. You get it close he catches it. He’s an NFL receiver. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”