College football: '12 minutes' the difference for winning Panthers | |  Soccer

College football: ’12 minutes’ the difference for winning Panthers | | Soccer

Northern Iowa’s Khristian Boyd wraps around Sacramento State’s Cameron Skattebo as he runs the ball at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls on Saturday.

CHRIS ZOELLER Courier Staff Photographer

CEDAR FALLS—Thirteen minutes and change—795 seconds—define the Northern Iowa football season through three games.

Last Saturday, the Panthers trailed No. 7 Sacramento State 27-21 with 10:04 remaining in regulation. Backed up to their own 14, the Hornets rushed on eight consecutive plays and gained 67 yards. After their drive stalled at the UNI 20, Hornets kicker Kyle Sentkowski booted a 38-yard—his third of the game—to put Sac State on top 30-21.

However, greater than the three points, the Hornets had burned 6:24 off the clock and left UNI with 3:33 seconds to mount a final comeback effort.

The Saturday before last, trailing 29-27, the Panthers allowed the North Dakota Fighting Hawks to burn over six minutes off the clock.

The UNI offense—which had just scored a touchdown on a one play, 72-yard drive lasting 11 seconds—watched from the sidelines as Tommy Schuster, UNI transfer Tyler Hoosman and the UND offense dawdled its way down the field and converted on a pair of third downs.

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The Panthers offense did not get a chance to scratch across the go-ahead score with a follow up to its 72-yard touchdown hookup between Theo Day and Deion McShane.

In that 13 minutes and 15 seconds, UNI saw its record flip from 2-1 to 0-3. A fact which UNI head coach Mark Farley pointed out to his team and during a press conference on Monday.

Fball UNI vs.  Sacramento 10

Northern Iowa’s Woo Governor wraps around Sacramento State’s Marcus Fulcher as he runs the ball at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls on Saturday.

CHRIS ZOELLER Courier Staff Photographer

“We are 12 minutes away from being 2-1,” Farley said. “There are seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter and you are down by six…You are two points down at North Dakota with five minutes to play…You are 12 minutes—guys—from finishing two games you have not played well in and being 2-1. Then, you are on top of the world.”

Missed tackles, turnovers and a lack of composure at different points in both games against FCS opponents all factored into the failure of UNI to reverse the script on their season according to Farley. But, Farley continued and said that all their issues would be solved if those 795 seconds went differently.

“We can make it up to something big or we can narrow it down to the fact that we missed two games by 12 minutes,” Farley said. “That was without playing to the level that our expectation is of what we can.”

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Missed tackles proved the most glaring of UNI’s struggles during both game winning drives for Sac State and North Dakota. A fact which shows up in the Panthers run defense which allowed 295.7 yards per game and ranks third to last—121st in the FCS—through three games.

Take away the 582 yards allowed against Air Force, the top overall rushing offense in the country, and UNI’s number improves to only 152.5 yards per game. While a drastic improvement, it still ranks in the bottom half of the FCS—sandwiched between Prairie View A&M and Incarnate Word at 63rd overall.

In fact, it paints a picture of dramatic regression from a Panthers defense which ranked in the top 20 in rushing defense and improved each of the past three seasons.

As far from those previous defenses as the Panthers currently appear, Farley does not see a desperate about-face or symbolic dedication to practicing tackling as the solutions to UNI’s issues on defense.

“We are not going out changing a lot of things,” Farley said. “We are not going to go out and tackle. I have heard of these coaches that will go out and tackle all week long…I do not believe that is how you fix it.”

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According to Farley, the Panthers will fix their issues with the right attitude ‘between the ears’ and not on the practice field.

“Tell them the facts and they know how to fix it,” Farley said. “If we just go out and try to put some verbiage on the wall or say ‘We need to tackle better.’ Well, of course, it is pretty obvious, but to tackle better…it is not the drills. It is what you do the entire week, it is what we do today, it is what you do tonight, it is how you think that determines how you play.”

Farley continued and said the physical side of the game is not the source of his team’s issues, but the mental side which brought about the struggles of the first three games.

“The play is just as important as attitude,” Farley said. “Attitude…is that energy that you need to finalize a tackle, finish a tackle, to hit a tackle. That comes from a distinctive moment to smoke somebody…That is how you have to play this game.”

Fball UNI vs.  Sacramento 15

Northern Iowa defenders swarm Sacramento State’s Marshel Martin at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls on Saturday.

CHRIS ZOELLER Courier Staff Photographer

Once UNI fixes what is between the ears will be the same time they return to the previous from which allowed them to halt opposing run games over the last three seasons.

“If you do not play with that attitude, that edge, then you do not get the results you want,” Farley said. “It does not need to be practiced. It is the angle that you take, but it is the attitude that you finish.”


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