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UNI Panthers wary
Mark Farley smells a trap.
He fell for it in 2009, but vowed Monday that he and his team won’t fall for it again.
The Panthers climbed to No. 2 in the nation in both major FCS polls Monday after beating then-No.12 Stephen F. Austin 34-23 in Nacogdoches, Texas, Saturday night.
A week ago, the Panthers stood No. 3 in one poll and No. 4 in the other, so it wasn’t a big jump. But when you’re No. 2, people seem to think you’re capable of playing for the national title.
Farley would love to play for Northern Iowa’s first crown, but he doesn’t want his team distracted by the polls.
“We’re not going to fall into the trap that we fell into two years ago,” he said Monday. “Part of that trap was answering those questions.
“I’m going to step so far away from that stuff right now. … You can get me once, not twice.”
The Panthers are idle this week and host Western Illinois in the conference opener on Sept. 24.
Northern Iowa climbed to No. 2 in 2009 after getting off to a 5-1 start, with the only blemish a 17-16 loss to Iowa when the Hawkeyes blocked two field goals in the final seconds in Iowa City.
The Panthers finished 2009 with a 7-4 record and missed the FCS playoffs, so that No .2 ranking at midseason didn’t help. In Farley’s mind, it may have hurt.
Now the Panthers have a 1-1 record, with the only blemish a 20-19 loss to Iowa State . They are No. 2 again and Farley is running for cover.
“This team is young and needs to get better,” he said.
Georgia Southern is No.1 in The Sports Network the FCS Coaches polls, followed by Northern Iowa. Eastern Washington was No. 1, but the 2010 national champs lost to South Dakota.
Farley liked the way his team rebounded from a slow start at Stephen F. Austin.
“We had a good football game on Saturday,” he said. “Great optimism going forward, because of the way we played on the road against a very difficult team in a difficult situation, about as bad as you could put together.
“That was the ultimate storm, and we came through and got the win. That really bodes well for what the possibility for this team is.”
Northern Iowa tailback Carlos Anderson sprained his ankle on the first series and did not return, but redshirt freshman David Johnson carried the ball 31 times for 87 yards and two touchdowns.
Quarterback Tirrell Rennie rushed for 126 yards and two TDs and passed for 151 yards, making big plays at critical times. Northern Iowa’s defense came away with four turnovers, and the offense did not lose the ball.
Rennie was named the Missouri Valley Conference offensive player of the week and Johnson was named the newcomer of the week. Linebacker Jordan Smith was named defensive player of the week with 16 tackles and a pick.
By JIM ECKER, Des Moines Register