UNI football focuses on mental part of the game

UNI football focuses on mental part of the game

Mark Farley


CEDAR FALLS -- Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot. Tight. Power. Spread.

None of these were the calls the Northern Iowa football team made Wednesday during its 11th practice.

But from start to finish terms like that were yelled both by coaches and players in a practice that was less about collisions and more about mentally getting lined up right and understanding the schemes and systems the Panthers have been working on the first 2 1/2 weeks of preseason camp.

As UNI edged toward its second, closed scrimmage Saturday, head coach Mark Farley wanted to stress his team mentally.

"We are the stage they have to be able to retain what we have done," Farley said. "It is like getting ready for a game. New stuff is going to come in Tuesday, but you still have to retain what we have been practicing.

"This was kind of pulling it altogether and working their minds as much as their feet."

As expected, Farley said mistakes were made all over the field and while learning took place during the practice, the real learning will take place in meeting rooms as coaches and players dissect each play and each segment from Wednesday's practice.

With that said, Farley generally feels the Panthers are on pace with what they need to accomplish before playing Iowa State on Aug. 31.

"I can say that because we took five days and then had media day," Farley explained. "So, we took a small pod, and where were we going to be on that Wednesday media day. We were a little behind at that time.

"Then we took the next three days, that pod, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and we caught up. We got to where we belonged. This is a week schedule and where are we going to be on Saturday, and at the end of Wednesday ... on track and on time."

A FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING: When UNI plays Iowa State, junior safety Zac Kibby of Algona will also serve as the Panthers' punter.

While Kibby served as last year's back-up and punted 15 times for a 39.5 average, much of those punts coming when pressed into service with starter Michael Kuntz was hurt at Iowa.

Farley can't ever recall having a position player serve as his starting punter either as a coach or as collegiate player.

"Kibby has done a great job," Farley said. "And, he is athletic, too. Now, playing defense, the concern is if he breaks a wrist or thumb. You can still play your position with a broken thumb, but you can't punt. We have to be conscious who the next punter is just because he is a position player and will play.."

Red-shirt freshman Nate Murphy, also in line to be the starting placekicker, is Kibby's back up.

Kibby is also in the mix at safety with Christian Jegen, Jevon Brekke, Spencer Perry and Eric Mooney.

A four-sport star at Algona Garrigan, Kibby served as the Golden Bears punter for three seasons.

A year ago, buried on a deep safety depth chart, the 6-foot, 215-pound junior was looking for a way to make the travel roster when he approached UNI defensive coordinator and secondary coach Jeremiah Johnson with a proposal.

"The more you can do the more valuable are," Kibby said. "So, I was kind of thinking, 'heck, they are looking for a back-up punter, I can do that.'"

He wasn't too sure Johnson took him seriously, but he found himself attempting a few punts in practice and the next day Farley came over and said you are the back-up punter.

"I hit a few balls and I hit a few pretty good, thankfully," Kibby said of the impromptu tryout.

Kibby wasn't the back-up for long last year.

Making a tackle after punt in week two at Iowa, Kuntz hurt a finger and couldn't catch the snaps because of the injury. Having already fallen to jokes the game before at Montana, Kibby didn't initially understand what was happening when all the coaches were yelling at him to take the field to punt against the Hawkeyes.

"I would be lying if I told you I wasn't freaking out when I went in there," Kibby smiled.

More of a rugby-style punter last year, Kibby said he has worked more out of the pocket this year, but the rugby thing is still in his arsenal.

Furthermore, which could make him even more valuable to the Panthers who still haven't settled on a place kicker yet, is Kibby was also Garrigan's placekicker in high school.

"I'm not going to tell them that," Kibby laughed.


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