U.N.I. coach Mark Farley admits this year’s Panther team could be a special one. U.N.I. is off to a 3-1 start and opened the Missouri Valley Football Conference race with a dominating victory at Missouri State. “This football team is at a better point today than any previous team that we’ve had,” Farley says. He says that assessment is based on not the opponents they’ve faced, but on what he’s seen in practice and the fact they are good on offense, defense and special teams.
Farley says the key will be not looking too far down the road, and he says if they keep healthy and keep getting better they are in a good place. He says they have to keep finding ways to challenge the football team.
One area that needs improvement is penalties. U.N.I. averages just under 63 yards in penalties per game. Farley says they’ve lost over 250 yards of offense from penalties in the first four games, and also have lost more on deffense. The Panthers host an Indiana State team this weekend that has lost 31 consecutive games and 55 of its last 56.
“We’ve got to find a way to challenge our team, and do it for four quarters, and not worry about who we’re playing, but how we’re playing,” Farley says. Farley says the Panthers cannot focus on Indiana State’s record. “If you dare look too far down the road, if you dare look past today, I think that you start to become complacent with where you are at and you start to become neutral,” Farley says. He says Indiana State has been in all its ballgames at halftime and has had some problems in the second half.
Indiana State coach Trent Miles says his team faces a big challenge against the Panthers. He says they are a well-coached solid team and the best defense in the nation and could easily be ranked number one. Miles says they are going to buckle up the chin straps and “come out breathing fire and try to get at it.”
The Sycamores have scored only 30 points in five games. Miles says the problems on offense are a combination of mistakes and a young offensive line, as they are starting a true freshman, three true sophomores and a true junior and they aren’t where they need to be yet.
Miles says the Sycamore defensive line will need to battle a U.N.I. offensive line that is much bigger. He says they will have to play with great pad level and be physical and try to penetrate.
Elwin Huffman of KOEL in Oelwein contributed to this story.