UNI Panthers

UNI football takeaways: The defense can get even better

How can the offense improve after 13-6 win over Idaho State?

Northern Iowa Panthers defensive lineman Jared Brinkman (44) reaches for Idaho State Bengals quarterback Gunnar Amos (12) during the first quarter of their game at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
Northern Iowa Panthers defensive lineman Jared Brinkman (44) reaches for Idaho State Bengals quarterback Gunnar Amos (12) during the first quarter of their game at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

CEDAR FALLS — After a 13-6 home win over Idaho State on Saturday that featured a sluggish offense and outstanding defensive effort, ninth-ranked Northern Iowa hits the road for a big test.

The Panthers (2-1) are at fifth-ranked Weber State on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Here’s what head coach Mark Farley said Monday at his weekly news conference.

The defense is good and should get better

Through three games, UNI’s defense has allowed only three touchdowns in regulation and ranks third in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, allowing just under 300 yards per game.

The defense also has registered 10 sacks — led by junior defensive end Elerson G. Smith, who racked up three against Idaho State — while continuing to take advantage of an ability to switch between 3-3-5 and 4-2-5 alignments.

“There’s still some ‘young’ errors that are going on out there and the more they play the more we’ll get through that part of it,” Farley said.

RB Tyler Hoosman earned more opportunities

After not getting any snaps the first two games, Hoosman’s turn in what’s been an average, at best, backfield so far largely came in the second half of Saturday’s win. The Plainfield, Ill., native took advantage of his time on the field with 84 total yards on 11 touches. He had a 60-plus yard run called back for holding.

“He produced the way we felt he would. Which gives you more trust in the fact of how he’ll play going down the road,” Farley said. “I don’t know how many carries he had (Saturday) night but there’s no question that what he did and how he produced with his opportunity earned him the right for more.”

How the offense can improve

After the UNI offense produced only 234 yards on 60 plays Saturday, Farley revealed opponents have been regularly dropping eight defenders into coverage while only rushing three to counter UNI’s passing game.

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However, quarterback Will McElvain’s ability to extend plays exploited Idaho State on what became the game-winning 17-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Weston early in the fourth quarter. Monday. Farley said a productive run game will help the offense avoid another performance similar to Saturday’s.

“If you can run the football you can start to control what happens in that football games,” Farley said. “Because with a good run game you’ve got play-action. Without a good run game you lose play-action, so you lose two-thirds of your game without a good run game.”

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