UNI Panthers

UNI football takeaways: Struggling offense looking for answers in FCS Playoffs

Panthers are low on numbers entering second-round game at South Dakota State

San Diego Toreros cornerback Michael Hawkins (2) breaks up a pass intended for Northern Iowa Panthers wide receiver Isaiah Weston (80) in the second quarter at the first-round playoff game between ther Northern Iowa Panthers and the University of San Diego Toreros at the UNI Dome in Cedar Falls on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019.  (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
San Diego Toreros cornerback Michael Hawkins (2) breaks up a pass intended for Northern Iowa Panthers wide receiver Isaiah Weston (80) in the second quarter at the first-round playoff game between ther Northern Iowa Panthers and the University of San Diego Toreros at the UNI Dome in Cedar Falls on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa used its size and speed advantage against non-scholarship San Diego in a 17-3 first-round win in the FCS Playoffs on Saturday at the UNI-Dome.

Next up for No. 6 UNI (9-4) is a much anticipated rematch with No. 10 South Dakota State (8-4). The 7-seed Jackrabbits ran over the Panthers two weeks ago in Brookings, S.D., 38-7, as UNI quarterback Will McElvain committed a career-high four turnovers.

Here’s what we learned at coach Mark Farley’s weekly news conference Monday.

1. Low octane offense

Farley didn’t parse words Monday when asked about his struggling offense. The Panthers completed only 13 of their 27 passes in Saturday’s first round win over the Toreros and averaged only 2.4 yards per rush.

“There’s a lot of things you can do to make (the offense) more productive, it’s just what do we have in our arsenal to make it more productive,” Farley said. “We’re running on low octane (offensively) as far as personnel. We get to dress 64 guys (and) I did not even dress 64 guys last game. First time ever in any playoff game I’ve been in.”

2. Injury watch

Once again, injuries continue to be a main storyline for the Panthers. Middle linebacker Chris Kolarevic (lower body) left Saturday’s win in the second half while Isaiah Weston (lower body) also left the game in the final 30 minutes.

Farley ruled Weston and Kolarevic questionable for Saturday.

All-American tight end Briley Moore — who’s been out since injuring his shoulder week one against Iowa State — is physically ready to go according to Farley, but likely will not be cleared by the doctor before Saturday’s rematch.

Wide receiver Deion McShane will dress for the third consecutive game, but will likely remain limited as he’s still not 100 percent.

Tight end/offensive lineman Matthew Vanderslice (upper body) was ruled out for the season by Farley on Monday.

3. What’s the chip really worth?

UNI defensive back Christian Jegen and defensive end Brawntae Wells made it clear how much they’re looking forward to Saturday’s rematch with the Jackrabbits. Farley said Monday that the cliche ‘chip on the shoulder’ attitude can be valuable, but prefaced that comment by describing how players focus right now should be on the work they’ll need to put in at practice this week.

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“This (game) is pretty personal, but we’ve also got to attack it like a team,” Wells said. “(We’ve got to) go back this week (and) prepare like we always prepare and perform.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8252; nathan.ford@thegazette.com

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