CEDAR FALLS — South Dakota State’s 38-7 beatdown of Northern Iowa on Saturday threw a wrench into the Panthers’ hopes of a top-8 seed and a first-round bye in the FCS Playoffs.
UNI (7-4, 5-2) fell to No. 9 in this week’s FCS STATS poll after its loss to the fifth-ranked Jackrabbits and wraps up its regular season this Saturday against lowly Western Illinois (1-10, 1-6).
Here’s what we learned at coach Mark Farley’s weekly news conference Monday.
1. Plenty to blame for South Dakota State loss
While Farley was short and pointed in his answers after Saturday’s loss, he was more descriptive Monday about the reasons for his team’s struggles, in particular the offense.
“(Quarterback) Will (McElvain) didn’t play that well,” Farley said. “He was good in the passing game we had set up for him, and then losing (receiver) (Isaiah) Weston, (tight end Jayden Scott) and some of the things we had to do, I put it more on the coaches that we probably could’ve cleaned it up better for Will to give him a better opportunity.
“You can’t expect a freshman to be able to adjust to everything (with) as much going on right now, particularly with offensive personnel.”
2. Healing (and departing) Panthers
Farley designated Weston (lower body) as questionable/doubtful for Saturday. Scott — who left Saturday’s loss with an undisclosed injury — is questionable and running back Nick McCabe is expected to play after not playing past opening kickoff Saturday.
All-American tight end Briley Moore and receiver Deion McShane were described as questionable for the approaching playoffs.
Moore — who tweeted in October that he’d be returning in 2020 as a fifth-year senior by taking a redshirt — cannot play in more than three of a potential six remaining games for the playoff-bound Panthers.
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McShane — who was injured six weeks ago at North Dakota State — was a surprising mention from Farley as his status was “out indefinitely” after having surgery on an undisclosed injury after the loss to the Bison.
Farley also confirmed that redshirt sophomore quarterback Jacob Keller has been in the transfer portal for the past month, but has continued to be a contributing member of the team.
3. UNI’s senior day celebration
After redshirts due to early-season injuries, UNI will celebrate 12 seniors Saturday.
Defensive end Seth Thomas, offensive lineman Jackson Scott-Brown, wide receivers Jaylin James and Aaron Graham, defensive backs Roosevelt Lawrence and Christian Jegen and running back Trevor Allen are among UNI’s regular contributing seniors. Christian Ellsworth, Colton Lueck, Sam Drysdale, Hezekiah Applegate and Joe Friedrich make up the rest of the Panthers’ senior class.
“I know they’re guys who have meant a lot and played a lot of football here,” Farley said