CEDAR FALLS — Good teams have players who are willing to make sacrifices for the betterment of the team.
Northern Iowa has a slew of them, and none sacrificed more than junior quarterback Colton Howell did Saturday in UNI’s 25-10 win at Missouri State.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Good teams find ways to win, and so do injury depleted teams.
Needing to win their final two games to all but assure a spot in the FCS playoffs, the Panthers (6-4 overall, 5-2 Missouri Valley Football Conference) were put in a difficult spot 10 minutes into Saturday’s game when starting quarterback Eli Dunne appeared to suffer a concussion while scrambling.
Howell, who had taken nearly every snap with the second team all fall, was ready when his name was called.
The plan, however, was to never play Howell this season.
For the second year in a row, the native of Wichita, Kan., and transfer from Butler Community College was expected to redshirt. But for the second year in a row, Howell saw his redshirt pulled because of an injury.
Howell tweeted this out Sunday, “Came to UNI and was told I would redshirt and play three years. After having my redshirt burned back-to-back seasons, toward the end of the year, it unfortunately means I have one year left. Having teammates like mine makes these sacrifices worth it and I have faith in God’s plan.”
Howell said much the same thing Saturday after completing 12 of 20 passes for 129 yards and rushing for a couple of key first downs.
CEDAR FALLS -- The next man in motto was certainly in effect Saturday for the University of Northern Iowa football team.
“What impressed me most, honestly, is when Eli went down, they had faith in me,” Howell said of the team. “I did this last year, and they all had faith in me. The expectations were still high, so they were a great support group and the biggest thing they had is faith in me.”
Dunne had played every snap leading up to his injury, and with winless Indiana State coming to Cedar Falls Saturday, UNI’s staff may take caution with Dunne and give Howell his second career start.
A year ago, playing behind Aaron Bailey and Dunne, Howell was called into action in week nine when both were unavailable for a game at Indiana State where Howell led UNI to a 39-6 win while passing for 112 yards and rushing for an additional 48.
UNI head coach Mark Farley hopes Howell and the rest of his teammates understand just how important Howell’s role in Saturday’s win was to the program.
“I told Colton at least twice since the game was over, I hope you understand how important that win was, and what he did was very important to our program,” Farley said. “He once again was a great team player and he went out and did a nice job of executing.
“He did things he needed to do ... ran for first downs, threw for first downs and no turnovers. That is what is big.
“What he did today is probably more important than what people realize.”
OTHER TIDBITS: Kicker Sam Drysdale connected on four field goals against the Bears, including a career-long of 47 in the second quarter. Since missing his only two attempts in week three at Southern Utah, Drysdale has now made 10 consecutive field-goal attempts. ... Elijah Campbell’s pick-six in the second quarter was UNI’s third this season and the second consecutive year Campbell has returned an interception for a touchdown against Missouri State. Saturday’s game with Indiana State (0-10) will be the final regular-season home game for 15 Panther seniors.