UNI Panthers

UNI struggling to find right combination on defense

Panthers limited by injuries on both sides of the ball

Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz and Northern Iowa Panthers head coach Mark Farley chat prior to the game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz and Northern Iowa Panthers head coach Mark Farley chat prior to the game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

CEDAR FALLS — Two games into the season, Northern Iowa Coach Mark Farley is using adjectives such as “concerned” and “disappointed” to describe his football team.

The Panthers have played two quality opponents — Montana and Iowa — but it’s been the fashion in which they’ve lost those two games that have provoked such adjectives.

UNI entered Saturday night’s game against Iowa as an undisputed underdog, but allowing 545 yards of total offense (207 on the ground) left Farley with a poor taste in his mouth.

“Defensively we didn’t play very well at all, and that was more concerning to me than the rushing game,” Farley said.

Headed into its final non-conference game against Hampton on Saturday, Farley acknowledged at his Monday news conference that the coaching staff still is working to find the right mixture of defensive personnel.

“We’ve got to get the personnel correct,” Farley said. “That’s the inexperienced group if you really go look at it. I talked about it a long time ago. We’re not tackling the way we need to tackle. We’re not winning the line of scrimmage the way we need to win the line of scrimmage. Thus, we’re giving up too many yards.”

Making Farley and his staff’s quest for the best 11 on defense more difficult has been an injured Jake Hartford. The sophomore linebacker showed plenty of potential in limited action a season ago and was penciled in as a starter headed into 2018. However, an undisclosed injury has limited Hartford. Farley said if Hartford were healthy he would be in the lineup and likely covering up some of those sore spots.

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“(Jake’s status) is an unknown,” Farley said. “There’s no timeline on (Jake) and that’s one of those (injuries) that is frustrating because he’s practiced maybe three times in camp or so. He was a projected starter at that (nickel linebacker) position so that one makes a difference because that’s a piece that activates a little field boundary stuff that we do. He would be the boundary linebacker which makes a difference of coverage and run game.”

Elsewhere on the injury report, UNI enters Week 4 with receiver Aaron Graham questionable with a hamstring injury and punter Michael Kuntz questionable after suffering an injury at the bottom of a tackle pile against Iowa.

Starting running back Marcus Weymiller — who’s totaled only 17 carries through two games — was expected to shoulder a more considerable workload for the Panthers this season. However, Farley acknowledged Monday the senior is currently limited and may not be ready to handle 20-plus carries.

“(Marcus) would tell you he is (ready for 20-plus carries), but I don’t know if he’s ready for that,” Farley said. “(Marcus) is not top-end. He’s not full speed. He wants to be top-end, his mind tells him he’s top-end, but he’s not top-end for his quality of play. We have to get him there.”

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