FCS football: Northern Iowa jelling in consecutive wins over ranked foes
CEDAR FALLS -- A perfect marriage of offense, defense and special teams allow for teams to have big wins.
Northern Iowa is reaping the benefits of its three units working in perfect harmony.
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The Panthers (4-3 overall, 3-1 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference) has re-energized its 2017 season with back-to-back wins over top ten opponents following their 19-14 win over No. 9 Youngstown State Saturday.
UNI head coach Mark Farley hopes his team understands how the success of the past two weeks has been accomplished.
"Two wins is two wins," Farley said. "We are going to enjoy this one and then I want our football team to understand what they did last week and what they did this week and why they did it. Enjoy the moment, look back and see what they are having success now and build from that."
The offense has been efficient, capitalizing on its opportunities as that unit has went 10 of 11 in red zone scoring chances in the wins over the Penguins and South Dakota State the week prior. The Panther run game has 399 yards on 107 carries and five touchdowns. In its first four games, UNI rushed for 363 yards on 151 carries and one score.
The credit for the offensive success can be passed around from play caller John Bond to line coach Mike Simmonds, the line executing despite the absence of starting tackles Cal Twait and Spencer Brown and the return of running back Marcus Weymiller.
"It is a dynamic offense and that is what we knew we had coming into this," said Weymiller, who has rushed 71 times for 302 yards and four scores in the two victories. "With the receivers we have and the tight ends, we just have a lot of weapons out there.
"It is fun to ground and pound and grind it out, then we spread it out it makes it tough on a defense. Our coaches do a great job of putting us in great positions to make plays and putting defenses on their heels."
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Because the offense has taken a huge jump in efficiency, that has allowed the defense to expand its playbook and once again the results are in the statistics. Against South Dakota State, a team coming off a 368-yard rushing game the Panthers held the Jacks to 52 yards on 23 carries.
Then on Saturday, UNI held the ninth best rushing attack in the FCS to 201 yards below its season average of 248.5.
That means in the last two weeks, UNI has held its opponents 99 yards on 59 carries.
Saturday against the Penguins it appeared as if UNI confused YSU with multiple different looks switching from its normal 4-3 to a 3-4 and several times to a 3-3-5 and it resulted in 10 sacks.
"We did try to give them different looks," Farley said. "We have always had those packages in and now we just incorporated them. We want to keep them off balance which allows us to be successful.
"Our offense is letting us do some things right now, too. When you get ahead you can do some stuff, and they are allowing us to do some stuff."
As Farley has said multiple times, the challenge gets greater with each passing week and the challenge this week certain is great as UNI will prepare to travel to second-ranked North Dakota State (7-0, 4-0) Saturday where the Panthers have lost four straight times.
The Bison are also good in the run averaging 293.4 yards per game and have rushed for 26 touchdowns, while in a 24-12 win over Western Illinois Saturday to remain perfect, the longest run NDSU gave up was eight yards and it held the Leathernecks to 31 yards on 23 carries, a 1.3 average.
This article is written by Jim Nelson from Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, Iowa and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.