Kevin Schnepf, Published September 12 2010
Notebook: Panthers all about speedCEDAR FALLS, Iowa – Mark Farley knew he lost a lot of big defensive linemen from last year’s Northern Iowa football team.
So he opted for speed.
Northern Iowa’s new-look three linemen, four linebacker setup displayed a speed that created a school-record tying 11 quarterback sacks and limited North Dakota State’s tradition-rich running game to a minus 40 yards.
The result was a 16-9 Missouri Valley Conference win for the Panthers.
“What a great way to start,” Farley said. “This group had to learn this new defense and learn it in the three weeks of camp. We played fast and we played tough.”
Linebacker L.J. Fort and defensive back James Conley, two of only three defensive starters for Northern Iowa’s defense, were all smiles.
“Everybody was doubting our defensive line,” said Fort, who had 12 tackles and two quarterback sacks. “We came out and showed we are not an ordinary school. We have tradition here. We have good teams year after year after year.”
“It just means we have more athletes on the field this year,” said Conley, who had eight tackles and 2 ½ sacks. “It was fun out there.”
Speed on offense too
Northern Iowa also displayed speed on offense – with junior college transfer quarterback Tirrell Rennie and running back Carlos Anderson.
Rennie showed why he led the nation’s junior colleges for two straight years in total offense. The 6-foot, 201-pound transfer from Ellsworth (Iowa) Community College ran for 96 yards and passed for 172 yards.
The Bison defense, not knowing who was going to start at quarterback, needed most of the first half to figure out Rennie’s elusiveness.
“He’s a dynamic player,” Farley said of Fennie, who also set total offense records at his high school in North Lauderdale, Fla. “He’s fun to watch. He can make things happen.”
Farley kept it a secret until game time that Rennie was going to start. Rennie said he found out Friday.
“Kind of, sort of,” Rennie said, who added Missouri Valley football is much more physical than JuCo ball. “I’m sore. All these players are more physical. Smarter. I love it.”
He was also loving the play of Anderson, a 5-8, 172-pound sophomore who rushed for a career-high 158 yards – 38 of those coming on the first two plays of the game. It was big gainers like those that helped boost the confidence for Northern Iowa’s young offensive line.
“With a new offensive line, I tried to be as elusive as I could,” Anderson said. “I told them I got faith in them.”
Big punt sets up only TD
Perhaps the play of the game came in the third quarter from a punter from hometown Cedar Falls.
Sophomore Kyle Bernard boomed a 75-yard punt, standing near the goal line. Instead of the Bison getting good field position, Northern Iowa got it back after the Panthers tipped NDSU’s punt. That set up the only touchdown of the game, giving UNI a 16-3 lead with 3:34 left of the third quarter.
“That was huge,” Farley said of the punt. “Kyle Bernard did an awesome job.”
Bernard, who averaged 37 yards per punt last season, had a previous long of 58 yards.
Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor
Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549
Schnepf’s NDSU media blog can be
found at www.areavoices.com