CEDAR FALLS – Northern Iowa has lost a quarterback.
Two-year starter Will McElvain announced on Twitter Monday he is entering the transfer portal.
McElvain turned in a gritty performance in Saturday’s season opener at heavily favored Iowa State.
McElvain, a Des Moines Lincoln graduate, earned the starting job after tight battle in preseason camp with transfers Theo Day, Matt Morrissey as well as Justin Fomby and Nate Martens.
He started at Iowa State and again the following week at Sacramento State. Day replaced him at the start of the third quarter in California and since McElvain has only appeared in mop-up duty in wins over St. Thomas and Youngstown State.
Day has done little to lose the job, either, as he has passed for 768 yards and six scores while going 2-1 as a starter.
Panther head coach Mark Farley addressed the departure during his weekly press conference.
“Will has been great for us,” Farley said. “He came in here as a walk-on and earned the starting position. He earned the starting position at the beginning of this year and rightly so based off his play.
“We wish Will the best. We will help Will out in any way we can because Will helped our program.”
UNI was the only school to see McElvain as a quarterback. Iowa State recruited him as a defensive back following a prep career that saw him become the first Class 4A player to pass for more than 2,000 and rush for 1,000 in a single season as a senior in 2017.
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After a redshirt year, McElvain won the starting job in 2019 and in his first career start nearly led UNI to an upset victory over Iowa State that the Panthers eventually lost in triple overtime. He went on to set UNI freshman marks for passing yards (2,778) and touchdown passes (20) that season while leading the Panthers to the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs.
Following his rookie season he was named to the Missouri Valley Football Conference all-Newcomer Team.
McElvain was the preseason all-MVFC first team quarterback last fall/spring, but missed two games because of COVID protocols and finished with just 938 passing yards in five games and just one touchdown pass.
In starts against Iowa State and Sac State this season he passed for 237 yards and a touchdown.
Farley added that because of the transfer rules losing a player mid-season is always a possibility, especially at the quarterback position where there is only one of them that typically plays, and players only have so much time to play college football.
“You understand the reasoning behind it,” Farley said. “Any time you lose somebody after they have been with you a while makes a difference because they are still part of our group, part of our family and our program.
“At the same time you understand why these things happen now because of the rules that allow you do this. This is the opportunity to play as much as an opportunity to be in the program you want to be in.”
Farley went on to say he had much admiration for what McElvain has done for the Panthers adding the 5-foot-11, 195-pound sophomore was hurt.
“His foot has been in a boot the last three weeks,” Farley said. “He has had it (the injury) since camp and has battled through it thought but it got progressively worse. He is such a competitor, and was trying to compete through it all.
“I appreciate the fact he was running around at Iowa State and doing things down there and at Sacramento State with a foot that was injured. When you don’t have your feet it is hard to do stuff, but he wasn’t telling anybody because he was gutting it out. That makes you who you are.
“He was a hell of a competitor and that is why he was our starter,” finished Farley.
Farley said he wasn’t ready to name a back-up to Day, yet.
“I think we probably have a pretty good idea,” Farley said.
Fomby started two games in McElvain’s absence last year and Martens got some playing time in both games.
Morrissey was a highly-regarded junior college quarterback. Also 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, like day, Morrissey, a native of Elmhurst, Illinois, passed for 1,523 yards and 13 touchdowns against two interceptions in eight games last season with Trinity Valley, a community college located in Athens, Texas.