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CEDAR FALLS – One weekend of Missouri Valley Football Conference play was all that was needed to deem it the normal crazy.

Three of the four conference openers featured incredible comebacks.

In Youngstown, Ohio, Western Illinois broke a program and MVFC record by overcoming a 28-point deficit to beat Youngstown State, 38-35. The Leathernecks trailed 35-7 late in the second quarter.

Then in Carbondale, Ill., Southern Illinois erased a 17-0 third quarter deficit to beat Illinois State 35-17, and finally in Springfield, Mo., Missouri State trailed 14-0 early and 23-14 at halftime before rallying past South Dakota, 31-23.

Northern Iowa head coach Mark Farley was a casual bystander to the interesting opening week with his Panther football team on their bye week. But he had one thought about it Monday in his weekly press conference – interesting.

“We will say that every week,” Farley said. “Get used to it because that is the way it is going to be every week. At the end of day every game we play here on out is like playing a Top-20 football team. You might as well put that on the table right now.”

Farley wondered: Is the dynamic of the league changing? Considered a conference dominated by great defenses, Farley took note of all the offense that was produced.

The WIU-YSU game produced 774 total yards, USD-MSU 800. South Dakota State racked up 517 in a 44-0 win over Indiana State.

“The numbers that are going up in this league are unbelievable,” Farley said. “I thought it was a defensive league, but it is an offensive league right now.”

The offensive explosion could be said to be happening in Cedar Falls, too.

Prior to the bye week, UNI scored 34 points against Sacramento State and followed that up with a 44-point effort in a victory over St. Thomas. That is the first time since 2018 that the Panthers, who currently rank sixth in the FCS in scoring defense (11.6), had scored more than 30 points in back-to-back games.

INJURY UPDATE: UNI’s offensive line figures to get a boost Saturday when the No. 15 Panthers host Youngstown State for Homecoming.

Justin Peine and Matthew Vanderslice, both whom started the season opener against Iowa State at right guard and tackle, respectively, will be good to go against the Penguins.

“We just had to get them healthy,” Farley said. “As of right now both Vanderslice and Peine will be available.”

Wide receiver Logan Wolf remains questionable with a hamstring injury. He has not played in either of the last two games after he re-aggravated that preseason injury against Iowa State.

“He is a good possibility,” Farley said of Wolf. “I just need to see how he progresses this week. He didn’t get back to full strength last time and by doing so got hurt again right away.”

NEW FACILITY PAYING OFF: The Panthers broke in their new $2 million Doug and Ann Goschke artificial turf outdoor facility for the first time last Tuesday and continued to take advantage of great weather the remainder of the week.

“It was so nice to practice outside and I kept hearing that comment (from players),” Farley said. “We always wanted to practice outside, particularly, with the way the weather has been. We couldn’t until this year. We actually practiced inside because of safety and not because of weather.

“It was great. It was great to have a safe surface. It was great to play the game with wind factors and those type of things because you have to be able to adjust and adapt. It just elevates practices.”

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