CEDAR FALLS — It has been good for the ninth-ranked University of Northern Iowa football team to stay close to home the past month and a half.
For the first time all season, the Panthers will travel out of state when they take on fifth-ranked Weber State in Ogden, Utah, Saturday at 7 p.m. It is the latest UNI has played its first out-of-state game since 2010 when the Panthers didn’t leave Iowa until they faced Southern Illinois on Oct. 9.
With the youthful nature of this year’s squad, UNI head coach Mark Farley said playing two of the first three games at home had an underlying benefit.
“I noticed it yesterday,” Farley said. “I was sitting there and you go back and see what you have done. The difference this year is we’ve gotten to play two home games in September. (It’s allowed) us to get our feet underneath of us ... get through a game like the other night with a young football team and a freshman quarterback.”
The last time UNI had played two home games in the month of September was 2014.
After playing at Iowa State, the Panthers have spent the past three weeks at home with their games against Southern Utah and Idaho State sandwiched around a bye week.
Farley said that was valuable time to teach, learn and get better without a long road trip or two. He added it may have been the difference between winning rather than losing to the Bengals last Saturday.
“That same team if we had played at Idaho State, with the same age group, your percentage (of winning) goes just the opposite trying to survive something like that,” Farley said. “That has been the biggest thing missing here since 2014 is having home games in September in the Dome.
“There is no question we have one of the best home field advantages in college football. We just need to take advantage of it, and we did that the other night.”
TOP 10 SHOWDOWN: Saturday’s game is one of four that pits Top 25 FCS foes against each other, but the only one where both teams are ranked in the Top Ten.
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Farley said every game matters but this one, in the bigger picture of things, has a little extra riding on it.
“Of course it carries importance, no question,” Farley said. “This is the (defending) Big Sky champion. It is different than the previous two, no question about that, and it is on the road to top that.”
ALTITUDE: The elevation at Ogden, Utah, the site of Saturday’s game, is 4,300 feet above sea level, which will be the highest elevation the Panthers have played in since they played at Northern Colorado (4,675) in 2013.
Last year, UNI opened at Montana where the elevation in Missoula was 3,208 feet.
“We might do some extra push-ups today or something,” laughed Farley. “I don’t know if you can (do extra things to prepare for the added altitude). It does factor into the game. I’ve always said it doesn’t just because it is a mindset.
“We have played enough out there. It is part of the game. It is part of home field advantage. We get the Dome, Weber State gets the mountains. We will prepare for it ... it might be some substitution things ... so guys can be there at the end of the game.”
The elevation in Cedar Falls is 879 feet.
HOOSMAN EARNS MORE TOUCHES: Sophomore running back Tyler Hoosman had a strong second half for the Panthers against Idaho State, averaging 5.5 yards per carry on his 10 rushes, and he had one catch for 29 yards.
Farley says Hoosman will most likely be more involved within the Panther offense against the Wildcats.
“He produced the way we felt he would so he came through in the way he thought he could which gives you more trust,” Farley said. “What he did and how he produced with his opportunity earned him the right for more.”