CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa head football coach Mark Farley evoked the old aphorism “a rising tide lifts all boats” when asked about the passing of former legendary football coach Darrell Mudra, Saturday.
However, that same principle could be applied to UNI’s 52-17 win over Western Illinois.
Teamwork—or the complimentary nature of UNI’s defense—featured as the biggest thing from the win that stood out to Farley.
“I was pleased with the fact of making the turnovers, creating the sacks—the team effort,” Farley said. “It took a pass rush to get the intercepts, but at the same time you had to do a good job against the rushing attack to create the passing game.”
For weeks, the Air Force loss afflicted the Panthers defense. Weeks spent preparing for a style of offense the Panthers would not play again caused a ripple effect. Farley often pointed out that he felt the defense’s first real week of preparation came the week following the season opener.
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But, on Saturday, the defense ridded itself of that looming specter cast almost a month ago now. Farley noted, on Monday, that he felt his team showed what it could be for the majority of the win on Saturday.
“After that first, initial series when we went out there, I really think we really only had one bad series after that,” Farley said. “We really played well together as the game went on.”
While some might point out WIU’s status as a bottom feeder in the Missouri Valley Football Conference—the Leathernecks own a 2-13 record in their last 15 games—Farley does not subscribe to that line of thinking.
“It is a jumping off point no matter what because of what we did,” Farley said. “They had to do it on the road. There is a lot of adversity that goes into that no matter who you play…How they prepared, the things they went through, they did a nice job preparing themselves.”
UNI’s preparation showed in a pair of interceptions returned for touchdowns—both by junior defensive back Woo Governor—and in holding WIU to a measly 3-of-12 third down conversion rate and 0-for-1 on fourth down attempts.
The attitude his team played with served as another takeaway for the 22nd-year head coach. After their third consecutive loss to Sacramento State, last week, Farley said his team needed to play with the right attitude to resolve their tackling issues on defense.
Farley saw that attitude on Saturday in Macomb despite the mundane nature of Hanson Field.
“They had to do it at Western,” Farley said. “It is not the most exciting place to play where you need to bring your own energy to make it happen…Our guys went down there, played with the temperament you need to play the game at and they had to bring it out themselves…I thought they came out and really did a nice job and we will build off that this coming week.”
While pleased with the Panthers’ performance, UNI has not reached its potential yet according to Farley.
“We raised our game,” Farley said. “But, there is more meat on the bone.”
Farley updates injury status for Wolf, Ellis: UNI junior wide receiver marked a surprise absence from the Panthers offense on Saturday.
Wolf—who caught a 34-yard touchdown pass on UNI’s penultimate series against Sac State—watched Saturday’s win from the sidelines.
“He could not play,” Farley said. “He got hurt last week on those last couple plays. Nothing serious, but something that you have to be smart about so you can have him for the full year.”
Farley said Wolf managed to participate in a practice in a limited capacity leading up to Western Illinois, but was held out of the game out of precaution.
“We were not at the comfort zone to put him out there and possibly lose him for a whole season,” Farley said.
He cited UNI’s depth at receiver as another reason for the decision.
On offensive lineman Nick Ellis, Farley said that the news remains positive and that he sported a walking boot on his injured, left leg as a means to keep swelling at bay.
“Nick is always getting good news as far as what could have been,” Farley said. “But, it is bad enough news that he cannot play yet…He has a chance to progress when he gets back to healthy. It is nothing he cannot come back from.”