|« After Fourteen Years, Doris Reflects on Fairfield Athletics||Plenty at Stake for UNH, Villanova »|
The Later, the Better for UNI Panthers
Cedar Falls, Ia. - Northern Iowa football coach Mark Farley smiled and paused when asked about his success in November.
“It’s a good month,” Farley finally said, provoking laughter from the fans and media assembled Monday for the Panther athletic department’s press luncheon.
That could be an understatement.
Farley improved to 21-4 in November after his team’s 30-6 rout of Western Illinois on Saturday on the road.
In comparison, Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore is slightly better, 21-3, since 2001, the year Farley became Northern Iowa’s coach - and Florida’s Urban Meyer is slightly less sterling at 24-5.
“November is really critical,” said Farley, whose Panthers are ranked fourth in the Football Championship Subdivision by the Sports Network. “When you look at the games that are played there, it’s really to finish your season, not just accept where you’re at.”
Farley and his staff’s late autumn winning mill is fed by long hours, precise planning and the proper mix of external motivation and senior-led skill sharpening.
It also doesn’t hurt to have something to play for - and if Northern Iowa (7-2, 5-1 Missouri Valley Conference) can upend Saturday’s foe, Missouri State, at home, the stage will be set for another bountiful victory harvest.
The Panthers have won six consecutive games and are poised to earn back-to-back playoff berths for the first time since 1995-96 - if they can win their three remaining regular-season games, and possibly even if they lose one.
“It would be real easy to say, ‘Look ahead right now,’ ” Farley said to slow speculation about playoff hopes. “But if you dare do that, then I think you’re going to set yourself up for failure.”
How to steel against such perils?
Farley chooses to stress the importance of being earnest yet even-measured.
“You’ve got to stay very focused, whether it’s good or bad, you’ve got to stay focused in (this) month,” said Farley, whose teams have won 16 of their past 17 November games. “Everybody else wants to look down the road. Everybody else wants to look three weeks from now, and if you dare look three weeks from now, you might not see three weeks from now.”
Not with the proper perspective, anyway.
Not with at least a share of the conference title in hand and a possible playoff seed in play.
“Guard against the future,” Farley said. “But learn from your past.”
UNI football: The later, the better for Panthers
By Rob Gray, The Des Moines Register
Photo Credit: Bill Neibergall/The Des Moines Register