UNI Panthers

UNI football takeaways: Panthers have question marks at running back

Trevor Allen and Tyler Hoosman dealing with injuries ahead of Indiana State game

Northern Iowa running back Trevor Allen (25) takes a handoff from quarterback Will McElvain (13) against Youngstown State at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
Northern Iowa running back Trevor Allen (25) takes a handoff from quarterback Will McElvain (13) against Youngstown State at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

CEDAR FALLS — The Northern Iowa football team, up to No. 5 in the FCS rankings after Saturday’s win at Illinois State, finds its self with a depth challenge at running back.

Trevor Allen (concussion) and Tyler Hoosman (ankle) left Saturday’s win in Normal, Ill., with injuries. Both are questionable for Saturday’s game against Indiana State at the UNI-Dome.

True freshman Nick McCabe stepped in and rushed for 44 yards on 15 carries, but those three are the only running backs on the roster.

“I don’t have a great answer for you right now,” UNI Coach Mark Farley said about running back depth Monday during his weekly news conference. “We were talking about that this morning and I was thinking about it yesterday.

“You might tap into your freshman world. We’ll see where (Allen and Hoosman) are at (in) tomorrow’s practice. I would hope we get one of the two back.”

Solving the 3-man rush

After its narrow 29-26 triple overtime loss to Iowa State to begin the season, UNI’s offense struggled in its next few games as opposing defenses consistently blitzed three and dropped eight into coverage.

In Saturday’s win, Illinois State borrowed from UNI’s early-season opponents, routinely dropping eight into coverage. Panthers QB Will McElvain got off to a rough start against the Redbirds, missing on his first five passes. But he finished 14 of 23 for 189 yards and three touchdowns.

“You have to find the windows, you have to have the plan and you have to have the receivers to make the plays. We did all those things,” Farley said. “I thought Suni Lane really countered what (Illinois State) was doing with (Isaiah) Weston.”

UNI controls its destiny

With their win over Illinois State, the Panthers’ chances of a top-eight seed and a first-round bye in the 24-team FCS playoffs increased considerably.

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UNI will find out if it’s currently a top-eight seed Wednesday night when the FCS playoff selection committee releases its first rankings. Farley acknowledged Monday that his team controlling its own destiny won’t go unaddressed.

“I know it will be addressed, whether I do it or not (the players) know,” Farley said. “They just need to stay in tune with what we’ve done this past month as we get ready for this month of November, because Novembers do factor in to really what the outcome is deep into December.”

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