CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — Camp Randall Stadium is a big stage.
Mark Farley knows that. Northern Iowa’s head coach wants everyone else to realize the football season is far from a one-act play.
The Panthers open 2012 Saturday against Wisconsin in its 80,000-seat stadium. Camp Randall can be intimidating for a Big Ten Conference team, let alone a representative from the Football Championship Subdivision.
It’s a high-decibel place, and the Badgers’ home is loaded with high-level talent. Montee Ball, a 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist, returns for another year as the featured running back. Offensive left tackle Ricky Wagner is considered an Outland Trophy candidate.
That’s what UNI faces Saturday when the teams kick off at 2:30 p.m. Can the Panthers play the role of worthy opponent?
“I feel like the pressure of the world is on us,” Farley said Monday. “We want to play well, but this is such a good football team. In this kind of environment, I feel the pressure in on us. I sense it. Let (Wisconsin) feel the way they want. But this is a huge, huge task for this (UNI) team — huge. This game is all that matters right now.”
Farley also pointed out that, for all the attention focused on Wisconsin and the Sept. 15 date at Iowa, the Panthers are playing for other stakes. They want to win another Missouri Valley Football Conference title, for instance.
That phase of the 2012 doesn’t begin until UNI goes to Youngstown State Sept. 22.
Referring to the Wisconsin and Iowa matchups, Farley said, “As you look at this season, don’t gauge us, don’t gauge our football team off two games — win or lose them.
“Our purpose here is to find a way to win our league, and our league is Youngstown. I can already see the hype building for two games, where really the hype should be for our season. That’s our purpose.”
Two of UNI’s 2012 co-captains said the Panthers can handle the immediate challenge posed by Wisconsin while gearing up for a run at the Valley Football title.
“I’ve got 11 games in the season and we’re just trying to win every single one of them,” said center Brian Palangi. “Obviously, conference play is more important. But we look at Wisconsin the same way we look at NDSU (North Dakota State) or Youngstown State this year. We want to win. We want to strategize and plan for them and coordinate everything so we can win this game.”
Added running back Carlos Anderson, “We’ve got to approach each game the same way. We go into it looking to win, just like we go into every Missouri Valley Conference game looking to win.”
TWO-DEEP THOUGHTS – Farley unveiled UNI’s first depth chart of 2012 and a few items are attention-getters.
One, Misha Danilov’s name is missing. The senior from Middleton, Wis., started every game at offensive right tackle in 2011. Saturday, sophomore Ryan Bingaman will be No. 1, with freshman Ben Wallace the backup.
Danilov, said Farley, has been suspended for undisclosed reasons.
“He’ll not go to Wisconsin,” said Farley. “He’ll not participate in this game.”
Two, Zach Cutkomp is now a linebacker. A reserve running back for his first two active seasons, the junior is now listed as Sam Tim’s backup at the strongside spot.
Farley, though, said that if something happens to Anderson or David Johnson, or both, Cutkomp will return to offense.
“Then we’ll adapt and adjust from there,” said Farley
Three, Phil Wright is listed as one of three starting wide receivers. A year ago, Wright received national exposure when he recovered the infamous fumbled kickoff in the end zone during the playoff game with Wofford. ESPN played the video constantly for a time.
The door opened at wideout for Wright when injuries knocked veterans Brett LeMaster and Chad Owens out of fall camp.
“Phillip Wright has done a nice job,” said Farley, who said the depth chart remains very fluid
“We’ve moved some people and there’s still some moving to be done,” he said.
HAIL TO HOWARD – Farley said he watched former UNI offensive lineman Austin Howard’s start at right tackle Sunday night when the New York Jets played the Carolina Panthers in an NFL preseason game. The game was televised on NBC.
“That’s where you’re proud of what you’ve done,” said Farley. “It appears to me he has a chance to play in the league a long time.”
78-Tim Sauer (6-8, 302, Sr.) LT-LE 12-Tim Clark (6-3, 245, Sr.)
63-Jake Boll (6-6, 300, Sr. 58-Collin Albrecht (6-4, 259, Jr.)
55-Dan Kruger (6-5, 308, Jr.) LG-LT 98-Xavier Williams (6-4, 305, So.)
75-Kirk Harris (6-5, 291, Fr.) 94-Isaac Ales (6-3, 260, Fr.)
60-Brian Palangi (6-5, 310, Sr.) C-RT 44-Mac O’Brien (6-2, 290, Jr.)
65-Mark Blessingham (6-5, 326, Jr.) 97-Mohammed Kromah (6-3, 325, So.)
66-Jack Rummells (6-5, 300, So.) RG-RE 91-Chris Jepsen (6-3, 249, Jr.)
68-Spencer Hicks (6-4, 305, So.) 48-Wyatt Peiffer (6-5, 240, Fr.)
77-Ryan Bingaman (6-5, 285, So.) RT-LB 37-Max Busher (6-1, 220, So.0
79-Ben Wallace (6-5, 275, Fr.) 46-Jake Farley (6-1, 220, So.)
87-Sam Rohr (6-3, 219, Fr.) TE-LB 35-Jordan Gacke (6-2, 227, Jr.)
88-Steven Figueroa (6-4, 249, Sr.) 47-Chad Gilson (6-0, 223, So.)
2-Terrell Sinkfield (6-1, 192, Sr.) WR-LB 41-Sam Tim (6-2, 207, Jr.)
18-Kevin Vereen (6-3, 205, So.) 23-Zach Cutkomp (6-0, 202, Jr.)
89-Brett LeMaster (6-3, 196, So.) WR-LCB 4-Varmah Sonie (5-9, 166, Sr.)
11-Wes Smith (5-8, 170, Jr.) 27-Edwin Young (5-11, 170, Fr.)
31-Phil Wright (5-10, 197, Jr. WR-SS 15-Garrett Scott (6-0, 201, Sr.)
19-Chad Owens (5-11, 183, So.) 31-Deiondre’ Hall (6-2, 170, Fr.)
1-Carlos Anderson (5-8, 172, Sr.) RB-FS 20-Wilmot Wellington (5-10, 205, Sr.)
or 7-David Johnson (6-3, 214, So.) 24-Tim Kilfoy (6-1, 191, Fr.)
17-Sawyer Kollmorgen (6-3, 214, Fr.) QB-RCB- 28-J.J. Swain (6-0, 170, Sr.)
14-Jared Lanpher (6-1, 206, So.) 26-Blake White (6-3, 220, Fr.)
or 5-Stephen Kaiser (6-3, 222, So.)
38-Tyler Sievertsen (6-2, 186, Jr.) PK-P 29-Kyle Bernard (6-3, 198, Sr.)
40-Michael Schmadeke (5-10, 165, Fr.) 51-Zach Kerndt (6-0, 180, Jr.)
29-Kyle Bernard (6-3, 198, Sr.) H-DS 54-John Hubbard (6-2, 226, Sr.)
19-Chad Owens (5-11, 183, So.) 52-Ryan Dixon (5-9, 216, Jr.)
20-Wilmot Wellington (5-10, 205, Sr.) PR-KR 1-Carlos Anderson (5-8, 172, Sr.)
4-Varmah Sonie (5-9, 166, Sr.) 4-Varmah Sonie (5-9, 166, Sr.)