CEDAR FALLS — Given what lies ahead, Northern Iowa’s 21-14 victory Saturday against 18th-ranked Youngstown State (4-1, 0-1) in the Missouri Valley Football Conference opener could have been considered a must-win.
With a trip to No. 1 North Dakota State (5-0, 1-0) up next, here’s what we learned at UNI (3-2, 1-0) head coach Mark Farley’s weekly news conference Monday.
1. Jalen Rima has entered the transfer portal
During Saturday’s pregame show on the Panther Sports Radio Network, play-by-play broadcaster Gary Rima revealed that his grandson — senior wide receiver Jalen Rima — would redshirt for 2019 after playing in the maximum four games to begin this season.
Farley, when asked Monday by The Gazette if Rima’s decision was player-development related or if the Cedar Rapids Prairie alum has other intentions, said Rima has entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal
“Everybody deserves to have a great senior year and I’ve always felt Jalen Rima is a special player,” Farley said. “So, he’s going to redshirt and he entered the transfer portal I believe. So he has a choice now to do what he wants to do. We support him 100 percent.”
2. Under-center offense could expand
Besides QB Will McElvain the Panthers’ other ball-carriers all averaged 4.6 or more yards per carry against the Penguins. Part of UNI’s success on the ground came with McElvain under center, a seldom-used formation.
Farley explained Monday that there are a couple reasons the 10th-ranked Panthers have begun putting their redshirt freshman QB under center.
“When we lost (tight ends Briley Moore and Tristan Bohr) we’ve had to make some adjustments in our run game and then with a freshman quarterback you kind of grow week to week, too, and you see what (McElvain’s) skill set is,” Farley said. “It worked fairly well the other night, but all those packages can be expanded based off who you play.”
3. New vs. old against NDSU
Along with a handful of plays from under center this past Saturday, the Panthers also showed new personnel groupings, pre-snap shifts and other wrinkles in their four and five-wide receiver sets.
Meanwhile, UNI’s defense continued to productively use its ability to switch between 4-2-5 and 3-3-5 schemes, using the former to shut down Youngstown State’s run game in the first half and using the latter to limit its passing game in the second half as it played from behind.
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Ahead of Saturday’s game in Fargo, N.D., Farley explained his thought process on continuing to add new wrinkles versus trusting what’s already installed on both sides of the ball.
“This game, home and road, (there’s a) big difference,” Farley said. “I don’t know that you go in there with a lot of things that you don’t do. You better do things well because your players (only) got a couple days to prepare. We’ll just go in (there) and play UNI football.”
4. Injury update
Farley confirmed Monday that Bohr (leg/knee) will miss the remainder of the season after the injury he suffered two weeks ago at Weber State. Bohr has one year of eligibility left and could still redshirt.
He also ruled Moore (shoulder) out for the remainder of the regular season and said cornerback Roosevelt Lawrence (upper body) is set to return this week vs. NDSU.