No Rima Reason – A Little Bit About A Lot of Sports

courtesy UNIPanthers.com

UNI head football coach Mark Farley starts his 14th season at the helm of Panther football. Coach Farley has been part of all 16 UNI Panther playoff appearances. He has done it in three different ways, a player, an assistant coach and the head coach.

Farley was the head coach when UNI made its only appearance in the FCS National Championship game in 2005.

The past two years have been “playoff-less” seasons for UNI. Two years ago the Panthers played an extremely tough schedule which included not one but two Big 10 opponents on their non conference schedule opening up at Wisconsin and two weeks later playing at Iowa.

courtesy UNIPanthers.com

courtesy UNIPanthers.com

That proved to be a bit too much to bite off in one season and even late that year Coach Farley admitted those two games took its toll on his team and they never really recovered until it was too late.

After the trek through the tough MVFC UNI finished with a rare losing record of 5-6. Last year UNI got off to a fast start going 4-0 including a season opening win at Big 12 Iowa State. The Panthers appeared poised to knock off, at the time, the 2 time defending FCS champions from NDSU on the Bisons home field. Leading by 13 heading into the fourth quarter disaster struck. UNI’s leading tackler and defensive leader Jake Farley broke his leg, QB Sawyer Kollmorgen suffered a concussion and if that wasn’t bad enough All American running back David Johnson, who rushed for 200 yards vs Iowa State, was slowed with a leg injury. UNI eventually suffered a heart wrenching 24-23 loss that would linger into the next couple of weeks.

As a matter of fact UNI would drop their next three games all in overtime and 2 of them in double OT. After starting the MVFC conference season 0-5 for the first time in school history, UNI would finish strong winning its last 3 and salvaging a winning season going 7-5. The five losses proved to most likely be 1 too many and UNI just missed an at large berth in the 24 team FCS playoff field.

In Bryce Millers Des Moines Register article from UNI ‘s football media day he wrote:

‘When asked whether the Panthers can finish atop the Football Championship Subdivision this season — despite a 7-5 record a year ago that included a five-game conference losing skid — he answered without a sniff of hesitation.’   “Yes, no doubt about it,” Farley said.

“Absolutely,” Farley said of the Panthers’ chance to make a run at a title. “I’ve looked at this (senior) class for a long time. It just lined up.”

In my 20 plus years of covering UNI football and 14 with Coach Farley as the head coach, I knew the “P” question should rarely be spoken until the team secured a playoff spot. Coach would usually avoid talking the playoffs until he knew his team was in or the season was in the books, let alone answer a question in the preseason about winning the FCS title.

This year, when asked if his team could finish atop the FCS, not the league, not the MVFC, not get into the playoffs, but finish atop the FCS…..he gave a direct and definitive answer. I don’t think there is any question about what the goal is for this season, for this years team, for this edition of Coach Farley and UNI Panther football….and I like it!

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The Waterloo Bucks summer collegiate baseball team was hoping to accomplish something the Bucks have not done since the 2002 season and that is make the Northwoods League playoffs in back to back seasons. The Bucks were a perennial playoff team in the NWL  from 1996  to 2002 making the NWL playoffs seven straight years and won the teams last league championship in 2002.

A year ago the Bucks set a single season NWL record for wins with 51 only to make an early exit by losing in the first round of the playoffs.

courtesy NorthwoodsLeague.com

courtesy NorthwoodsLeague.com

This year they put together two good halves finishing with the 3rd best overall record in the 18 team league…but the Bucks ended the second half just like the first, 1/2 game out of first place and just out of the playoffs. Waterloo needed to win one of their last 3 games to grab the 2nd playoff spot in the North Division of the NWL but picked the worst time to have their first 3 game losing streak of the season. Willmar was the Bucks biggest nemesis sweeping all 8 games vs Waterloo including the last 2 of the regular season in Willmar.

I know fans are hungry to see the Bucks return to NWL playoff baseball and bring a title back to Waterloo. The thing I want to impress on you is how hard it is in this age of NWL baseball to just make the playoff field.

When Waterloo had that 7 straight years of playoff baseball there were either 6 or 8 teams in the league and 4 made the postseason. In my years as the Bucks General Manager we knew going into the start of the season we had a 50% shot at making the playoffs. Teams in the NWL now have a 22% chance of playing post season baseball since the league has swelled to 18 teams but only 4 continue to make the post season playoffs.

The odds are against you to make the playoffs in the NWL now. I can’t stress this enough……. fans, coaches, players and staff you really need to cherish, enjoy and appreciate any post season baseball at all.

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There are still tickets available for every Iowa Hawkeye home football game this year, seven home games in all.

This baffles me.

At last report the home game with Iowa State was the closest to sold out with just over 2,000 tickets remaining. Just over a week ago there were over 7,000 tickets available for their season opener with UNI. Isn’t their season opener always sold out?

Iowa has a very favorable schedule this season. When the week of each of their 12 games rolls around they could be, and you could make a strong argument they should be, the favorite to win each one.

courtesy HawkCentral.com

courtesy HawkCentral.com

They open at home with a good UNI team, then host Ball State and Iowa State. Iowa will most likely be favored to win all three. That sends them on the road for the first time of the year at Pittsburgh and if they go there 3-0 you have to believe they will be favored to win and have a good chance to start 4-0. Then it is 8 Big 10 games in a row. Look at their Big 10 schedule; NO Ohio State, NO Michigan State, NO Penn State, NO Michigan. Their two toughest Big 10 games appear to be Wisconsin and Nebraska and Iowa gets both those games at home at Kinnick Stadium.

IF, and I stress IF, they win their early games they are favored too and take care of business in the early part of their Big 10 schedule you have to believe they will be the favorite to win at home vs Wisconsin, win that one and they would most likely be favored to win at home vs Nebraska. The schedule and the stars have aligned for Iowa to have a huge year. Iowa has a really good shot, a legitimate shot, at winning the West division and playing in the BIG championship game. Now if they get upset by UNI or Iowa State or stumble at Pittsburgh or lose to an underdog early on in their Big 10 part of the schedule this all changes but I still have to ask……why aren’t they sold out right now?

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