The Northern Iowa Panthers try to take another step on a road they hope leads to a national title when they host Delaware in the quarterfinal round of the FCS national playoffs in the UNI-Dome. The Panthers are 12-0 after rallying late to down New Hampshire in last week’s opening round.
Panther coach Mark Farley says the team is very focused, very experienced and they know what they are trying to achieve, and to achieve it is going to take four quarters of football. "And I don’t think there’s any secret to what this team’s goal is, and anything short of that would be disappointing."
UNI’s defense has been solid all season and will need another good effort against a Delaware offense that combines the passing of quarterback Joe Flacco with the running of Omar Cuff who averages 138 yards per game. Farley says the defensive line and linebacker’s speed has been very good, and they have staid healthy through much of the season, which he says has really helped.
Farley says while Delaware’s passing game gets much of the attention you cannot afford to forget about the ground game. He says Cuff is one of the best backs in the country, and he thinks Cuff is what really makes the offense go. Farley says the combination of the good quarterback and a good runningback, makes the quarterback more dangerous.
The UNI-Dome has provided the Panthers with a big home field advantage and Farley hopes it continues. He says you can tell people about it, but until you’ve been in there, it’s a different experience. Farley says players have to adjust to being in the dome.
Delaware coach K.C. Keeler says the Panthers will be tough to stop as they have a good tailback, quarterback and wide recievers, but it all starts with the offensive line. The Blue Hens are one of five teams to make the playoffs from the Colonial Athletic Association and Keeler says the competition prepares them for the playoffs.
Keeler says the year they won the national championship, five of their last 7 games were won in the last drive or snap of the game. He says that’s the difficulty of the conference. Kickoff in the UNI-Dome is one o’clock.