3 Things We Learned – Indiana St. 20 UNI 19

The UNI Panther football team lost their third game in five tries on Saturday afternoon to the #25th ranked Indiana State Sycamores 20-19.

Here are three things we learned from the Panthers loss.

1) To achieve a FCS playoff berth UNI must get more production from the quarterback spot…

I wrote earlier this season that although junior quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen wasn’t playing poorly, he wasn’t making the “winning” or the “game defining” throws that a quarterback with playoff wins on their resume makes.

By no means does the Panthers 2-3 record fall directly onto Sawyer’s shoulders. There’s plenty of blame to go around. And it would be a waste of time to describe who’s all to blame, and why. However, on Saturday the Panthers passing game went back to the sputtering it encountered against Iowa and Hawaii with Kollmorgen finishing the game with a line of 16-35 for 158 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception.

courtesy UNI Athletics Media Relations

courtesy UNI Athletics Media Relations

Kollmorgen, now with five games and 152 attempts under his belt this season, is completing his passes at a 50.7% clip. An unacceptable number for a ‘pocket-passer’ quarterback.

The ‘quarterback competition’ from the off-season between dual-threat quarterback Brion Carnes (rivals.com’s #7 overall dual-threat qb in 2010) and the pocket-passer Kollmorgen was downplayed by the coaching staff in the media and it seemed that Sawyer had a definitive leg up on Carnes throughout the ‘competition.’  Now five games into a precious season for the Panthers it’s hard to see how Kollmorgen kept such a tight grip on that #1 spot.

I’m not saying Carnes could be a ‘cure-all’ for the UNI offense, or that he comes without flaws. He completed just 51.7-percent of his 80 pass attempts last season. But the added dimension Brion brings to the running game certainly compensates for that number. And as a first-year player last season, after transferring from Nebraska, Carnes more than held his own after being forced into the starting lineup for a concussed Kollmorgen.

The first domino of the revitalization of the UNI offense could be Brion Carnes insertion into the lineup. The UNI offense is simply healthier and much more efficient when it’s running game is functioning and David Johnson is leading the charge. Carnes’ ability to transform the Panther offense from a spread-it-out 50/50 run-pass unit to a dynamic read-option unit could be just what the doctor ordered. Add in the talents of running backs Darrian Miller and Barkley Hill and there may be a sleeping giant of a run-game right under our eyes Panther Nation. The ‘pistol’ and ‘shotgun two-back’ formations with Carnes taking the snaps may very well be the best weapon that is most difficult for the Panthers opponents to gameplan against and ultimately defend.

It was surprising not to see Carnes take any snaps on Saturday and that may lead some into thinking that a qb switch is the last thing on the minds of the coaches. But the Sportsguy has mentioned time and time again that the UNI staff is not afraid to make personnel adjustments as the season progresses and evaluations become more clear.

Remember, the last time the Panthers appeared in the playoffs their signal-caller was dual-threat quarterback Tirrell Rennie and with the MVFC looking as tough as ever, and this year’s UNI team possessing a special pool of talent, the time to make a big and important decision at the quarterback spot may already be upon the Panther coaching staff.

2) The Panthers defense is playoff caliber…

The Sycamores passing attack was much talked about coming into this game. But it took a double-pass thrown by a wide receiver for Indiana State to get back the lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

UNI’s defense has seemed to improve throughout the season.

photo by Matthew Putney, WCF Courier Photo Editor | Northern Iowa's Deiondre' Hall, right, slaps down a pass intended for Indiana State's A.J. Johnson in the first half of Saturday's game in Terre Haute, Ind.

photo by Matthew Putney, WCF Courier Photo Editor | Northern Iowa’s Deiondre’ Hall, right, slaps down a pass intended for Indiana State’s A.J. Johnson in the first half of Saturday’s game in Terre Haute, Ind.

Ronnelle McNeil, Xavier Williams, Mac O’Brien, Issac Ales, Karter Schult and Adam Reth have proved to be a formidable rotation of players along the d-line.

Jake Farley, Brett McMakin and Max Busher cover a lot of ground and prove that with their 1, 2 and 3 rankings on the team in tackles.

The secondary has been highlighted by the stellar play of junior cornerback Deiondre Hall who pulled in his second interception of the young season on Saturday. Makinton Dorleant still has his ups and downs but playing with safeties Ray Mitchell and Tim Kilfoy helps cover up some of his over-aggressiveness.

Look for the UNI defense to continue to progress as the conference schedule rolls on. They will have their challenges but this is a unit that plays fast and with an edge.

3) Everyone makes mistakes and the Panthers will learn from theirs…

The, “fallout,” if you will, from the one point loss to the Sycamores seems somewhat palpable. Panthers fans expect wins when their team is ranked #10. And losing to a team with a more than lackluster program history will leave a bad taste in the mouth of most any fan. But, everyone makes mistakes and it just so happens that if you are a division 1 football coach that any errors in decision making are made in front of a passionate viewing audience.

I would bet that if the Panther coaches had already decided it was going to be a Michael Schmadeke field goal that was going to have to get the job done on Saturday then they would have ran a different play on 3rd and 12 than a 1st down seeking pass play down the sideline targeting Brett LeMaster.

Had the decision already been discussed that Schmadeke was going to more likely than not be getting the nod then a draw play or a high-percentage quick-hitter pass would have certainly been Bill Salmon’s play-call. But, on third down with 36 seconds remaining and one timeout left the Panthers felt like they had the play-calls to get much further into Sycamore territory for a much higher percentage field-goal try.

There seems to be a lot of disgust with the play-calls on UNI’s last drive Saturday. And while there will always be that faction of a fan base that calls for heads whenever there’s a “gut-punch” loss the best way to deal with that loss is to self-evaluate, correct the mistakes, and move on to the next game. There’s no doubt in my mind that is exactly what the UNI coaches have already done.

  • Have a question, comment or opinion? Reply below and let us know what you learned from Saturday’s 20-19 loss to #25 Indiana State…
  • Beef

    Strange, for many years it seems that whenever there were issues with Northern Iowa, I was one man alone on an island of independent thoughts. Alas, articles written all season that I have been almost entirely in agreement with.

    As I wrote last week, Northern Iowa did, in fact, get some help for the computers as both Northern Colorado and Tennessee Tech were both victorious. The Panthers shouldn’t get comfortable in thinking their schedule strength is going to continue getting a boost from these two, or Hawaii for that matter. All three of those former opponents will be outmatched most of the rest of their own schedules.

    Alas, that is all going to go for not if Northern Iowa doesn’t win from here on out. Knowing more than the average fan about computer rankings, FCS-wide scheduling and Selection Committee theories and tendencies, I can safely say, time is of the essence. Despite Northern Iowa having two FBS losses, which is generally looked at as only half-losses by the Committee, they are still NOT wins. And wins, good or bad, are a lot more important than good or close losses.

    Looking across the landscape of FCS football in 2014, a team like Northern Iowa is going to have a nearly impossible time getting into the playoffs with more than one more loss. Even counting the two FBS losses as half, theoretically giving them an 11-game record, two more losses would make the Panthers 7-4, 7-5 officially. That would probably leave them in the discussion for one of the last couple spots. Losing only one more game would have them look like an 8-3 team, 8-4 officially. Considering the MVC’s strength and having two losses to FBS opponents, UNI would be a virtual lock. It’s a near mortal lock that the MVC is getting four teams in the playoffs and five is a very realistic possibility. Northern Iowa can ill afford to be quagmired in the middle of the conference standings at 5-3, with a group of other as or more deserving teams.

    So what do we know about Northern Iowa?

    We know David Johnson is still David Johnson. A slight improvement in offensive line play makes all the difference in a Walter Payton Award candidate being buried in 8-man boxes to a highly serviceable running back. Now, if the Panthers could get some exceptional line play, David Johnson goes from a candidate to a finalist and a slam dunk NFL draftee next season(probably should be anyway).

    Right now the team’s most valuable offensive weapon is Michael Schmadeke and that’s not good. God bless the kid, he’s been an awesome kicker and apparently the only thing that can stop him is a 15 mph wind in his face on 50+ yarders. To me, it seems the Panthers are almost spoiled by having a really good place kicker, like they were the last few years with Tyler Sievertsen. They get down in the red zone, knowing they have three points guaranteed and lose their aggressiveness in the goal to get seven instead of those three.

    I know it’s cliché and politically correct to say, “we’re only focused on our next opponent”, but if the overall goal of this team is to make the playoffs, then urgency had better set in now. There’s seven games left on the schedule and NONE of them are gimmies. All these teams are fighting for what the Panthers should be fighting for and they’re not going to lay down. There’s an elite defense and running back being wasted because of inconsistent play up front and behind center. I still think the play-calling is vanilla, though not as vanilla as earlier in the season. There, I said it.

    This team needs to get their act together and play like they’re capable. Criticism comes from passion and devotion here. Stop breaking our hearts.