UNI football notes: Backup QB Colton Howell sacrifices another season
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for The Gazette

CEDAR FALLS — Nearly one year ago, Colton Howell had his redshirt lifted and was pressed into duty for a concussed Eli Dunne against Indiana State.

Howell, with the help of Marcus Weymiller in the Wildcat, led the Northern Iowa football team to a 39-6 win against the Sycamores and proved his capability as Dunne’s backup.

Fast forward a year and a week and Howell found himself in an all too familiar situation.

This time Dunne was lost in-game, so Howell didn’t have the luxury of a week’s worth of practices as the starter. That circumstance didn’t hinder the junior’s production and losing his redshirt status, again, didn’t stop the Kansas native either.

“That’s part of the redshirt thing, you wish you could redshirt everybody, but there’s guys — Daurice Fountain, Jared Farley — I wish I would have red-shirted them right now too,” UNI Coach Mark Farley said during his weekly news conference Monday. “But, when you’re playing in that season, particularly in our division, depth is a concern and quality of depth is even more so of a concern when you’re trying to be a contender every year.”

Howell and his calm demeanor, as Farley described it, managed the game and helped the Panthers maintain their lead in the second half, finishing 12 of 20 for 129 yards with no touchdowns or turnovers in the win over Missouri State.

“The story really was, Colton (Howell) coming in, first quarter, some rookie offensive linemen and playing on the road,” Farley said. “I thought he threw some good passes to move the chains for us and once he got comfortable — that’s when you really saw him in the fourth quarter — really operate, really did a great job with the clock and the things we were asking him to do.”

UNI offensive line holding up

As Farley alluded to, the Panthers were already dealing with second-teamers getting opportunities on Saturday before Dunne exited with his injury. Nick Ellis, a redshirt freshman, received his first career start at right tackle in place of an injured Bryce Sweeney.

Despite the patchwork offensive line, Farley said he’s pleased with the unit’s rhythm after it helped running back Marcus Weymiller rack up 131 yards in the win.

“When you look at (the offensive line) from the beginning of the season to what it is today there’s only two guys that were the original starters in that first football game that are still playing,” Farley said. “So, I’m pleased we can mix and match and get guys in there and still be productive. They’ve got their combinations (down) — their communications — that’s the key to offensive line play, that rhythm that you play with.”

Is UNI playoff ready?

It’s no secret the UNI defense has led the way in its 4-1 record the past five games. The Panthers are tied for fourth in the FCS in defensive touchdowns and, after two interceptions in their win over the Bears, they have created 11 takeaways in their previous five games.

“I’m watching them work together, coverages and pass-rushes, things like that, and are we getting better? I believe what I see is that we are,” Farley said. “We’re playing well together and I still think we’re improving. Every week I see a little bit of things that you can’t see. Visually, the adjustments that they make on the run that maybe weren’t coached that week or hadn’t been addressed in a while — that they can make those adjustments now for you when they see something new that we hadn’t prepared them for. They’re catching vision of what’s going on around them more quickly and I think that’s why we’re making plays.”

UNI injury report

Offensive linemen Cal Twait, Bryce Sweeney and Spencer Brown all missed Saturday’s game against Missouri State. Farley said Monday that Sweeney and Twait’s statuses have been upgraded from “out” to “questionable,” adding he thought they would get Twait back this Saturday.

After taking a big hit that forced him out of Saturday’s game in the first half, Dunne is not in concussion protocol. The Grinnell native, who had taken every snap at quarterback for the Panthers this season until leaving Saturday’s game, injured his chest/sternum against the Bears and is questionable for Saturday’s game against Indiana State.

Defensively, A.J. Allen missed Saturday’s game and Keelon Brookins left early with an injury. Farley said both are questionable for Indiana State, but sounded optimistic about their potential return to the lineup.

Listen to 2017 UNI football on the Home Of The Panthers, News/Talk 1540 KXEL. Follow @KXELPanthers on Twitter for the latest news, interviews, and more.

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  • Cole Bair handles sports for News/Talk 1540 KXEL, including sportscasts, co-hosting and producing 'On Press Row', contributing to high school football and college football and basketball programs, along with being the driving force behind HomeOfThePanthers.com. A graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, Bair is also an avid golfer and Chicago Cubs fan, and has an excellent rapport with both players and coaches.

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