CEDAR FALLS — For the first time since 2008, Northern Iowa football will play on a Thursday night.
Ten years ago, the Panthers defeated Nicholls State 34-14 at the UNI-Dome on a Thursday. This particular Thursday night tilt will take place on the road, a Missouri Valley Football Conference opener at Memorial Stadium versus Indiana State (2-1).
Given the fact none of UNI (1-2) head coach Mark Farley’s players have experienced a short game week, the 18th-year head coach says he’s been brainstorming the approach for this week since he got on the bus after the loss to Iowa.
“Easiest way to explain it is today is (our) Tuesday,” Farley said. “We’ll get up at 8 o’clock on Thursday morning. That’ll be our Saturday. We’ll have breakfast here and get on a plane and go to Indiana State. We used to do this all the time.”
Before its 44-0 rout of Hampton on Saturday, Farley acknowledged that there was still a search for the correct 11 starters on defense. Safety Korby Sander moved down to nickel linebacker against the Pirates, while true freshman Jevon Brekke started at Sander’s vacated safety spot and played wire-to-wire despite the unbalanced score.
“There’s some corrections that have to be made at those (positions) but for the first football game with those two playing those two positions I thought they held up well,” Farley said. “They’ll get tested much more now moving forward since they are on film. I thought Jevon did really well for what we’re asking him to do. I thought coverage-wise, Korby did really well.”
Another positive Farley saw Saturday was Marcus Weymiller’s performance. The senior running back carried the ball 20 times, a season-high, for 78 yards and a touchdown.
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“(Weymiller) likes to shoulder the load,” Farley said. “Part of this (Thursday game) is getting ready but the other part of it is the mental part of it. It’s just go get it done. He will take 50 carries or he’ll take two that day depending on how well he does with the first two he gets.”
Within Weymiller’s performance on Saturday was an expanded amount of ‘Wildcat’ formation plays where quarterback Eli Dunne splits out to a wide receiver position with Weymiller taking the snap and having a handful of options within the scheme. Trevor Allen’s 51-yard touchdown came off a ‘Wildcat’ play, as did Weymiller’s 9-yard score. Going forward Farley did acknowledge that it’s possible to go to the ‘Wildcat’ too often.
“You can probably drain it sooner or later,” Farley said. “I’m sure (Indiana State) will have a plan for it. But you still have to defend it. The Wildcat’s effective versus some teams and other teams it may not be. We’ll see. It’s not the only plan we’ll go into the game with. But it’s been effective for Marcus in a couple situations.”
In years past, a Thursday night game against Indiana State wouldn’t be of much concern. However, the Sycamores are off to a 2-1 start with second-year head coach Curt Mallory after going winless in 2017.
“Indiana State is really playing well,” Farley said. “Very good football team right now. (They’ve) really came a long ways in 12 months, in six months. It’s not the same team we played at the end of last season. I can promise you that. They’re running the ball well and their defense is playing with much more confidence.”