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UNI, Leathernecks’ QBs, and some other thoughts
I’ve been in the same room with Mark Farley after two of his most bitter losses in his career as the University of Northern Iowa coach.
I was at the post-game press conference in 2009, when the Panthers lost 17-16 at Iowa after two last-second field goals were blocked. Farley knew the biggest win for his program had slipped away on that day.
SAME RESULT, DIFFERENT FARLEY
And I was there Saturday night at Jack Trice Stadium, when UNI fell to Iowa State 20-19.
Two one-point losses to the two biggest in-state programs.
But this time, Farley had a different post-game outlook.
Was he angry at the loss? Absolutely.
But he knew that one game, especially a season opener, doesn’t define a season. And Farley wants to make sure the Panthers know that.
In 2009, that didn’t happen. UNI finished 7-4, didn’t win the Missouri Valley Football Conference title, and didn’t make the playoffs.
“I’m going to learn from the Iowa game,” Farley said. “It isn’t about this game, it’s about getting better for the next game. Maybe the Iowa game, we put too much into that game and not enough into the rest of the season.”
Yeah, a win over a Big 12 team looks awfully nice to a Football Championship Subdivision program, and beating an in-state rival is even sweeter.
But there’s a long season ahead for the Panthers, who are ranked in the top 10 nationally in the FCS polls and have thoughts of winning more than just a rivalry game.
“This team,” Farley said, “is designed to get better and better.”
What the Panthers did on Saturday was impressive. They outgained the Cyclones 385-328. They had the ball for 35 minutes, 16 seconds, almost 11 minutes more than Iowa State.
The 22-play, 90-yard drive that led to a third-quarter touchdown was an impressive display of ball possession against a team that had more players on the sideline.
Tirrell Rennie, from beginning to end, was the better quarterback on the field. He threw for 181 yards, ran for 127, and clearly looked in control of the game.
In the end, if it wasn’t for Steele Jantz’s magnificent throws on the Cyclones’ final possessions, this should have been a UNI win.
“Our team played hard, they executed the game plan,” Farley said. “They had fight in them, just like we wanted. I don’t really know what to say.”
It wasn’t a win. And it wasn’t OK for the Panthers, and Farley, to get close.
But they also know that it’s not the end of the season, only the beginning.
STILL A QB BATTLE
Western Illinois’ quarterback battle might be going on for a while.
Thursday’s 20-6 loss at Sam Houston State only seemed to add to the question of who should be the Leathernecks’ starting quarterback.
Wil Lunt was the starter in the game, and went 4-of-11 passing for 43 yards. He threw one interception in the end zone that snuffed a scoring opportunity.
Backup Josh Hudson completed 7-of-12 passes for 132 yards and one touchdown.
Western Illinois coach Mark Hendrickson said he wanted to see Hudson in a game situation, and at least for one night, Hudson put up better numbers than Lunt.
The Leathernecks have two more nonconference games, so there’s time to see both in game situations. Still, there has to come a point where one has to win the job.
James Vandenberg’s performance on Saturday for Iowa was as impressive as I expected — 13-of-22 passing for 219 yards and two touchdowns, and he also had a rushing touchdown. His leadership ability in his first game as the without-a-doubt starter was also impressive. … Lost in the shuffle was the strong showing Youngstown State had against Michigan State on Friday. The Penguins took a roster with 50 newcomers into East Lansing and gave the Spartans fits at time. In a Valley where there is plenty of balance behind UNI, Youngstown might be the sleeper. … It was fascinating seeing Iowa State play a game at the same time rumors were swirling nationally about what looks to be the continued breakup of the Big 12. As the conference expansion turmoil continues, it’s hard to see where the Cyclones could land.
by John Bohnenkamp, The Hawkeye