CEDAR FALLS — Sixteen Northern Iowa seniors potentially play their last game at 4 p.m. Saturday (KCRG 9.2).
A UNI (5-5, 4-3) postseason bid will require a regular-season finale win over Missouri State at the UNI-Dome, an Indiana State (6-4, 4-3) loss at Western Illinois (5-5, 4-3) and belief from the FCS Playoff committee.
With that in mind, here are three keys to a UNI win against Missouri State:
1. Control Tempo
In their four wins, the Bears (4-6, 2-5) effectively used a preferred gameplan of run-heavy, clock-chewing offense that kept their defense fresh. Coincidentally, UNI has proven it can more regularly use a similar plan to be at its best.
An early stubborn commitment to running the ball has become the best recipe for UNI’s offense. With running back Trevor Allen sidelined the past three games, Marcus Weymiller has shouldered a heavier load (more on that later), averaging 21.6 carries. Weymiller and Eli Dunne must take care of the ball and stack positive plays to eliminate a possible upset.
2. 20 Is A Magic Number
Last season, UNI was 4-1 in games Weymiller had at least 20 carries. This season, it’s 4-0 when Weymiller carries 20 or more times. As Dunne’s senior season, and career, has progressed it’s become obvious how much the pocket QB’s game rises when Weymiller is consistently gaining yards.
A second productive ball-carrier, likely Tyler Hoosman or Alphonso Soko, would be a big help for Weymiller and UNI’s chances, but when Weymiller is good, Dunne has most always been good, too. And when Dunne is good, his offensive line and receivers at least appear to also be good. Combine a functioning UNI defense with an offense that starts in the backfield with Weymiller and a W against the lowly Bears is more than likely.
3. Assignment Football
Missouri State’s offense and defense rank eighth and ninth, respectively, in the Missouri Valley. So, it shouldn’t require terrific play-making and a near perfect performance for the Panthers to score 30-plus and give up no more than 20.
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Turnovers, high snaps, missed blocks, drops and missed throws were too frequent the past few weeks. Simply sharpening up on fundamentals and executing assignments will go a long way toward a must-win against the MVFC’s ninth-place team.
“I just want to get our football team in position to win this (game) and then let that (committee) make that choice at that time knowing they can look at the head-to-heads and the schedules,” Farley said. “I don’t know if your tradition, your resumes from years past matters at this time, but I do think it is in the back of their minds of ‘what have they done when (they’ve) been there?’ And I think we’ve always done very well when we’ve been in (the playoffs).”