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2-Minute Drill — The Northern Iowa Panthers

Marc Morehouse, CR Gazette –

2-Minute Drill

NORTHERN IOWA (1-1) at IOWA (1-1)


A week after averaging 4.1 yards on 36 carries, the Hawkeyes were stifled by Iowa State, falling to 2.4 ypc on 28 attempts. The sequence in the fourth quarter, when Iowa had first down at ISU’s 3, showed the running game has a ways to go. On second down from the 2, ISU NG Jake McDonough shoved guard Matt Tobin into the backfield and knocked pulling guard Austin Blythe off course. That’s one example, but there were several. RB Damon Bullock took a ton of shots in this game, but bounced back with fresh legs in the passing game in the fourth quarter. The two balls Bullock caught for 22 yards weren’t called and weren’t even part of the play design. That was Bullock and QB James Vandenberg just kind of winging it. Matt Entz is in his third year at UNI, but first has defensive coordinator. All four starters in the secondary. Defensive end Chris Jepsen (6-3, 249) is the only returning starter in the front seven. Still, the Panthers held Wisconsin to 3.6 ypc in week 1. Advantage: Iowa


The one statement that did ring out in assessing the Iowa passing game this week came from sophomore receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley. Asked if the receivers were doing the right things, he said “That’s the thing that went wrong this past weekend. The little detail things, like getting depth on routes, staying on the move when we have to stay on the move, little things like that, they show up in the big picture.” Is Vandenberg trying to do too much? Yes. That’s human nature, especially when you’re an invested senior quarterback. This has come through in his decision making. Check the two interceptions last week. It was clear on the final drive that ISU tore up its defensive playbook and surrounded tight end C.J. Feidorowicz. He had a safety over the top and a linebacker underneath. Iowa will need to adjust to teams circling Fiedorowicz. The Panthers have four seniors in the secondary, led by free safety Wilmot Wellington and his 18 tackles. UNI is tied for fifth in the FCS with four intereceptions. Advantage: UNI


It’s hard to get a read on UNI’s rush. Wisconsin bottled up the Panthers, holding them to 41 yards on 20 carries. Against Division II Central State (Ohio), UNI rolled up 160 yards with redshirt freshman Austin Ebertowski leading the way with 87 yards and three TDs. That was strange because senior Carlos Anderson, 1,942 career yards coming into the season, and David Johnson, a bruising 6-2, 214-pounder, are considered UNI’s top backs. Last season, Johnson rushed for 822 yards and nine touchdowns with 33 receptions for 422 yards and three touchdowns. The Panthers’ O-line is big (304 pounds per man) and veteran (three fifth-year seniors; four starters return). In what had to be a reaction to week 1, senior Steve Bigach was inserted into the starting lineup at defensive tackle. For the most part, he replaced the rotation of freshman Darian Cooper and sophomore Carl Davis. They played, but less than they did against Northern Illinois. A rotation of four is happening at tackle, while end has gone to senior Joe Gaglione and junior Dominic Alvis. Gaglione has four tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. Advantage: Iowa


UNI QB Sawyer Kollmorgen is the Panthers’ story so far. The redshirt freshman from Jenks, Okla., threw for 265 yards and three TDs at Camp Randall. His efficiency of 173.65 is fourth in the FCS. He has six TD passes and no interceptions. Last week, Kollmorgen threw three quick TD passes and hit the bench. He is UNI’s best punch. “I don’t know about surprised, but I’m awfully impressed,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I think all of us are.” Sophomore Brett LeMaster (6-3, 196) is his main target, averaging 25.4 yards on seven receptions with a TD. Free safety Tanner Miller had a technique issue that led to ISU’s TD last week, but that was cleared up in the fourth quarter when Miller held position and LB James Morris jumped a passing lane for an interception. Still, the Hawkeyes had a zone switch problem on a 40-yard completion and failed to recognize a screen that went for 42 yards. Iowa seemed to lean toward more zone coverage than in week 1. ISU just missed converting a couple of long passes over the top. Advantage: Even


Senior punter Kyle Bernard had two 50-plus punts at Wisconsin. In 2011, he had nine 50-plus yarders and he has a 41.6-yard career average. Junior kicker Tyler Sievertsen, of Cedar Rapids, has scored at least three points (field goals or extra points) in 15 consecutive games. He finished second in the FCS in field goal percentage with 90 percent (18 of 20) last season. He made 8 of 10 from 40 to 49 yards with his only misses coming from 42 and 47 yards. Anderson averaged 23.1 yards on 24 kickoff returns last season. Iowa kicker Mike Meyer is off to a hot starting, hitting 6 of his first 7 field goals this season. Freshman punter Connor Kornbrath was steady on eight punts last week, averaging 36.6 yards. Iowa’s kick return team is No. 103 in the country with just 16.8 yards a return. Alvis nearly blocked a punt against ISU, but was hit with a roughing the kicker. ISU moved the ball to the 3, where Alvis recovered a fumble. Advantage: Iowa


1) Sure, UNI has everything to win and nothing to lose. It will collect $500,000 of much-needed payola for this game. The Panthers get another chance to put a big pelt on the UNI-Dome wall. Farley has two wins over FBS schools (Ball State, Iowa State), so he knows how to do this. Here comes the “but,” the Panthers travel to Youngstown State, the No. 3 preseason pick in the MVC, and then play host to North Dakota State, the league favorite and defending FCS champion. What’s the measure for a successful year at UNI? A big black-and-gold pelt or an MVC title and FCS playoff bid? 2) Iowa can’t score touchdowns. That would seem less like a tangible and more like something very tangible, like the whole point of offensive football. Yes, but think of the mind blitz this is putting on offensive brain trust. 3) Along with that, you have to figure at some point personnel changes will happen at wide receiver and, possibly, the O-line if mistakes continue to happen. Ferentz mentioned that fine line where a player starts looking over his shoulder. It can push you or crush you. Advantage: Iowa


The offense can crawl out of its helmet and Iowa’s secondary plays games with a redshirt freshman quarterback. Here’s the thing with the offense, don’t expect it to change its plans or go back to the Ken O’Keefe passing scheme. Not under Ferentz, not after two games. That’s just not reality. Expect a veteran secondary to roll coverage and try to mess with what Kollmorgen is seeing at the snap.


The Panthers front seven holds Iowa to less than 4 yards a carry and Kollmorgen keeps doing what he’s been doing. Wisconsin supposedly had a bigger, badder O-line than Iowa. The Badgers certainly have a more heralded running back in Montee Ball. A young UNI front seven traded punches. UNI’s O-line has allowed just one sack this season. Kollmorgen will be a confident performer.


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