CEDAR FALLS — After a 29-17 loss at Weber State on Saturday night featured an abysmal first quarter, 13th-ranked Northern Iowa (2-2) return home to host 18th-ranked and unbeaten Youngstown State.
Here’s what we learned at UNI head coach Mark Farley’s weekly news conference Monday.
No easy answers for slow starts
UNI has scored 10 points in four first quarters this season, and those slow starts have unquestionably contributed to its .500 record.
However, for the first time this season, Saturday’s first quarter struggles were not exclusive to the offense. Both defense and special teams started slow, too.
Asked if a game-opening scoring drive on Saturday against the Penguins could get his team out of its first-quarter funk, Farley said “we’ll find out.”
“The slow start, it goes back to the long (touchdown pass),” Farley said. “That was the first time somebody got behind (our defense) this season and it was (their) first play of the game. So it wasn’t the offense that (had) a slow start, it was the entire team. We just have to make sure we can get rid of some of those errors that killed some of those drives.”
Chris Kolarevic’s return
Through 5 1/2 games last season, middle linebacker Chris Kolarevic led UNI with 65 tackles. At season’s end, that number still was good enough for fifth on the team despite a foot injury in the Panthers’ sixth game.
The Traverse City, Mich., native entered Saturday night’s game in the second quarter after limited practice last week.
“I thought it was nice to see him play,” Farley said. “It was nice to see him have the success he had and it (had been) over a year since he was on the field with not a lot of practice, so it was very good to see him back on the field and perform the way he did.
“He found his way very quickly and made some plays.”
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Kolarevic’s debut included four tackles and one sack, earning him Missouri Valley Football Conference defensive player of the week. Farley revealed Monday Kolarevic said he felt good after the game, but added that special attention will be paid to the linebacker’s workload going forward.
Tight end depth tested
After losing All-America tight end Briley Moore (shoulder) in their season-opener against Iowa State, the Panthers suffered another injury at the position when Tristan Bohr (leg) went down in the second half against Weber State and didn’t return.
Farley said Monday that Bohr’s status for Saturday is doubtful.
UNI’s offense has been feeling the impact of Moore’s loss because of his talent, as well as its inability to play as much 12 personnel (one running back and two tight ends) as it would want.
Jayden Scott, Alex Allen and freshman Maverick Gatrost will be tasked with filling the void left by Moore and Bohr. Scott is the only one of those three with game experience.