Panther’s passing game must continue to offer big hype plays
Northern Iowa Panthers quarterback Theo Day (12) walks out of the pocket with the protection of Panthers tight end Layne Pryor (45) during the first half of their college football game against Utah Tech Trailblazers at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022. (Jim Slosiarek\The Gazette)
CEDAR FALLS – It’s another must-win game on Saturday for Northern Iowa as they return to the conference at home against Missouri State.
Chosen third in the Missouri Valley Football Conference preseason poll, Missouri State (2-4, 0-3) finished the 2021 season 8-4 overall and 6-2 in conference play but withdrew from the FCS playoffs in the first round with a 32-31 home loss to Tennessee-Martin.
The Bears are coming off a 38-21 home loss to 17th-ranked Southern Illinois two weeks ago but enter Saturday’s game after a bye week.
Missouri State is led by reigning MVFC Offensive Player of the Year Jason Shelley, who ranks second behind UNI’s Theo Day in passing yards per game (261.8). Shelley also presents a threat with his legs, having rushed for 252 yards this season, but has come at the cost of 29 sacks allowed, nearly five per game.
Here are three keys for the Panthers (3-4, 2-2) against the Bears.
1. Zone-field advantage
Given Shelley’s talents, it seems safe to say that UNI will play predominantly zone coverage.
The playing zone against the senior caller will mitigate his ability to create big plays with his feet, but will increase the importance of great technique and instincts on the Panthers’ defense.
Making a wrong read or getting it wrong on any of the plays could be all Shelley needs to create a game-changing play. Simply doing the job that is asked of you and allowing her talent to take control is a simple approach, but certainly an effective one.
2. Third Chance Dominance
UNI’s landslide victory against Utah Tech last week featured the Trailblazers going just 2-for-10 on third-down attempts.
Coming off the field on third and fourth down has proven critical to UNI’s ability to win games and against Utah Tech, a three-man front with consistent charges from the second level proved to be a good game plan. Can Mark Farley use a similar plan effectively against the Bears? Or did the Panthers’ success against Utah Tech on third down have more to do with the Trailblazers’ struggles than UNI’s progression?
3. Long distance dialing
Touchdown passes of 44, 32 and 70 yards became an impressive highlight after last week’s win and replicating those big plays in the future looks increasingly likely as Bodie Reeder and Ryan Clanton’s offense continues to develop.
Beyond the obvious positives of finding plays on the call sheet that create big moments, it also helps create more room for UNI running backs Dom Williams and Vance McShane to operate.
As evidenced in last week’s win, it’s important that as dynamic as the Panthers’ passing game has been, their running game produces well enough to possess the ball at a level commensurate with complementary football. to keep your defense fresh.
UNI v. State of Missouri
start time: 4 p.m. (Central Time)
TV: KCRG 9.2, NBC Sports Chicago+
live broadcast: ESPN+
Prediction: Missouri State 23, UNI 20