CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa coach Mark Farley stays in touch with Billy Hallgren. No, they don’t talk about the that thing that happened in 2009.
You know, that thing, that 17-16 Iowa victory over UNI at Kinnick Stadium. The one where the Hawkeyes blocked a pair of Hallgren field goal attempts (40 and 39 yards), escaped the Panthers and went on to win the Orange Bowl.
Farley doesn’t go there with his old kicker. Perhaps the more last effect, Farley said, was Panthers’ fans expectations against Big Ten teams. Those have gone up since 2009.
Farley’s Panthers, who play in the FCS, did nothing to tamp down those expectations with its hotly contested 26-21 loss at Wisconsin in the season opener before 79, 568 at Camp Randall.
UNI didn’t go away until redshirt freshman quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen’s pass fell incomplete on a fourth-and-1 at Wisconsin’s 41 with 2:46 left in the game.
“Around here, you always gauged your football team on how you played Iowa State,” said Farley, who is 2-11 against FBS schools with a 2007 victory over ISU and a 2001 victory over Ball State. “Now, since that game [2009 Iowa], everyone gauges how you do against the Big Ten.
“You realize the Big Ten and Iowa is a different animal because of the state that we’re in.”
Northern Iowa’s roster is routinely Iowa based. Farley is from Waukon in northeast Iowa. He knows this side of the state leans heavy Hawkeye.
“Ever since you’re in third, fourth, fifth grade, your parents, your town,” Farley said, “everyone is looking at the Hawkeyes, so you kind of grow up that way.”
Farley has had recruits stolen away late by Iowa, good ones, too. The latest was free safety Tanner Miller, who took an offer from Iowa two days before signing day, which is the same for FCS as it is for FBS. Former Iowa tight end and current Oakland Raider Brandon Myers was another one. Iowa kicker Mike Meyer also was snatched away for a walk-on opportunity.
No ill will from Farley, who’s in his 12th year at UNI. He knows the gravitational force that Iowa carries.
“When you don’t get to go there, you’re probably disappointed that you weren’t one of the few who were chosen,” Farley said. “When you come here, they develop it [chip on the shoulder], because they think maybe they were overlooked, so they have to work a little harder because the first go-round it didn’t happen for them the way they hoped.
“Maybe they can make amends the second go-round. It’s kind of how it is, it’s one of those where just a few get to do it [go to Iowa].”
UNI and Iowa are 1-1 heading into Saturday’s game at Kinnick Stadium. Last week, the Hawkeyes lost in a gut-punch to Iowa State, 9-6. After UNI dispatched Central State, 59-0, Farley went to work on the Hawkeyes.
Hawkdom sees an offense stuck in neutral. Farley saw talent.
“I don’t know why the production numbers are what they are, because if you just watch it play-by-play, you don’t see it in the eyes of numbers, you see it in the eyes of talent,” Farley said. “The talent is there.”
You can expect to hear a lot of opposing coaches talk about super-sized tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, who caught four passes for 61 yards against ISU. Fiedorowicz drew a linebacker and a safety on the game-deciding play, when linebacker Jake Knott climbed the ladder and sealed ISU’s victory with an interception.
“He can move like a receiver and he makes cuts like a receiver,” Farley said. “He’s one of those players who, to me, are fun to watch. He’s what you envision a football player being. We’ll have to do some things to try to manage him, because I don’t think you can stop him.”
The Big Ten and Iowa are a different animal for an FCS school, even with four FCS victories over FBS teams this season. There aren’t too many Feidorowiczes running around the Missouri Valley Conference.
Different animal, almost like a bear. Still, ’09 opened eyes to the possibility that UNI could win in Kinnick.
“It’s just a bigger bear to fight,” Farley said. “It’s perception as much as talent. That’s what you have to deal with, but that’s what we created after that game. Now, everyone wants to compare to the Big Ten.”
UNI against The Hawkeyes