July 21, 2009

By Amy Farnum Novin
NCAA.com

Northern Iowa has been voted the preseason winner of the Missouri Valley Football Conference title as the Panthers return the majority of their offensive starters, including senior quarterback Pat Grace, who was picked to the Preseason All-MVFC Team. 

“I don’t get caught up in (how many) returners (we have) and such, we just try to find the best group we have at the time,” said head coach Mark Farley.  “We do have a number of players back on offense and should be good on offense I hope. We did lose Corey Lewis, our all-time leading rusher.  I feel strong about what we can possibly do on offense.”

The Panthers have won two straight league titles, and finished No. 4 in the national rankings last year after falling to eventual NCAA champion Richmond in the final seconds of a FCS semifinal playoff game. 

“It’s a war wound that won’t heal,” said Farley regarding the Richmond loss.  “We’ve been in position before, but this is a new team.  What they have to understand is that each season presents a new outcome and different issues and possibilities and this is one of those years.”

UNI garnered 26 of the 36 first-place votes cast in the preseason poll.  The Panthers open the 2009 season at Iowa on Sept. 5.

DUTY CALLS: University of Montana head coach Bobby Hauck was one of five NCAA football coaches to visit U.S. troops while touring the Middle East and Asia for 10 days this month on a trip aimed at boosting morale of military members.

Hauck was joined by Robb Akey, University of Idaho; Chris Smeland, The U.S. Military Academy; Mickey Matthews, James Madison University and David Bailiff, Rice University, and the group visited troops in Qatar and Afghanistan.

“The thing that struck me the most was the attitude and the spirit of the troops,” said Hauck. “It’s unbelievable. They are a half a world away yet they are so positive. They are confident in their abilities. It’s awesome. You would be amazed by it.”

The sixth-year head coach of the Grizzlies was touched by how many college football fans he came across.

“If was told once, I was told a thousand times how excited they were for the start of the college football season,” said Hauck. “The chaplains on the bases said college football was huge over there. They are up at night watching games on TV and on the Internet. It was great to hear people, especially those not from Montana tell me they were excited to watch us play.”

Second-ranked Montana, the 2008 NCAA runner-up, hosts Western State on Sept. 5 to start the 2009 season.

MAKING THE LIST:  Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards, the 2008 Walter Payton Award winner, is naturally a front-runner once again in 2009 as he looks to become the first-ever two-time recipient of the trophy.   The Payton Award honors the Football Championship Subdivision national player of the year.

Edwards is a three-year starter that has racked up 3,682 yards rushing and 7,101 yards passing during his career.  He is one of 20 names on the Payton Award watch list.

The native of Greenwood, S.C., is also the lone FCS representative among the 21 players nominated for the 2009 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which is presented annually to college football’s top senior quarterback.  Edwards enters his final season at ASU as the school’s all-time leader in total offense (10,783 yards), TD passes (62) and touchdowns responsible for (109).

Edwards will begin his senior campaign on Sept. 5 as the Mountaineers travel to East Carolina for a battle the Football Bowl Subdivision opponent.