CEDAR FALLS — Don’t poke a sleeping bear.
Northern Iowa captain and 6-foot-4, 321-pound starting left guard Jackson Scott-Brown is not happy with the Panthers’ rushing attack through two games.
Starting with himself and then his offensive line brethren, Scott-Brown doesn’t feel he’s lived up to the expectations and standards of a UNI football offensive line.
Through two games, the Panthers are averaging just 2.0 yards per carry and have rushed for just 139 yards on 68 attempts.
“I’ve taken it kind of personally,” Scott-Brown said. “I need to get myself to a higher standard so our offensive line, tight ends and running backs can get to that standard, too.”
Scott-Brown expects the raising of that standard to happen sooner rather than later and wants to see it Saturday when the ninth-ranked Panthers (1-1) host Big Sky opponent Idaho State (1-1) at 4 p.m. at the UNI-Dome.
“Game one we did not play up to our expectation,” Scott-Brown expanded. “We got a little bit closer last week. This week, we really want to run the ball. It’s what we really need to do.”
UNI had similar issues gaining traction with its run game a year ago as the Panthers rushed for just 110 yards on 61 carries in their first two games. But in week three, UNI went for 143 against Hampton. Then in week four, 265 against Indiana State, including a career-best 180 by Trevor Allen, UNI’s leading rusher through two games this season with 103 yards.
UNI head coach Mark Farley has said the Panthers have the personnel and talent to have a strong run game.
With that said, UNI made the run game a focal point in its bye week.
“Schematically we worked on it. I think it will come with the growth of the offense,” Farley said. “Probably the easiest answer is a better understanding of personnel and coaches being that there are so many new people — offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach, we found out what Will (McElvain) can do ... so between all those questions through camp I think we answered those so we can kind of solidify what we’re going to do on offense from here on out.”
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The run game was not the only phase worked on during the bye week as UNI addressed a lot of areas that either needed to be vastly improved or strengthened.
There was also some prep work on Idaho State, the second of three Big Sky opponents UNI will face.
It’s hard to get a good read on what the Bengals will bring to the Dome. Idaho State opened with a win over Division II opponent Western Colorado before losing at then-No. 11 Utah last week.
The Panthers are relying a little on history and how competitive the Big Sky is year-in, year-out. Farley said the conference is a lot like the Missouri Valley where there are no easy wins.
“They beat Montana State (a FCS playoff qualifier) and lost to UC-Davis in overtime (UNI lost to UC-Davis in the playoffs) last year,” Farley said. “They were in the playoff picture all the way to the end last year. I have a great respect for them.”
ISU was picked to finish seventh in the Big Sky coming off a 6-5 season.
“They’ve played a D-II school and then played a Top Ten (FBS) team in Utah, so we don’t know what we are going to get,” linebacker Bryce Flater said. “But we are excited. They have a good skill set, a lot of good players.
“At the same time, it’s more about us being better. Last week wasn’t an off-week, we grinded every day improving on everything.”
The Bengals also feel this will be a great game to gauge themselves.
“This has playoff implications for us,” offensive lineman Dakota Wilson told the Idaho State Journal. “It’s a game where we’re finally evenly matched, (as opposed) to our first two games. We look at them as preseason games.
“This is kind of the start of the actual season, trying to prove who we are, who we’re going to be for the next 10 games. It’s a good opportunity to get after it.”