Secondary to have hands full with speedy Panthers

Zac Reicks

After pummeling Division II Wayne State 34-14 in their season opener, the University of Northern Iowa Panthers set their eyes on a bigger prize as they tangle with the Iowa State Cyclones in what will be the Cardinal and Gold’s season opener.

Buoyed by a strong performance from their quarterback, Tom Petrie, and superb efforts from receivers Jake Soliday and Marlus Mays, the 2001 edition of the Panthers followed old UNI blueprints to success as they relied on a strong passing game to garner the win.

Soliday had six catches for 152 yards and two scores as the preseason All-American quickly proved that his preseason honor was well deserved.

With Petrie putting the ball in the air almost 30 times in the win, one can bet the ISU secondary will have its hands full come Saturday.

“I give myself a `C,’ just because I dropped a couple of balls,” said Soliday who had four catches for 139 yards in the first quarter alone. “I have high standards for myself.”

With the loss of Dustin Avey, a four-year starter at safety, and cornerbacks Jamarcus Powers, Doug Densmore, Ryan Sloth and Breon Ansley, the Cyclones knew they would have to be replacing key members of the secondary if they wanted to be able to repeat their success from the 2000 campaign.

Hoping to shutdown Soliday and Mays will be returning safties Marc Timmons and Adam Runk.

Both are letterwinners who made significant contributions a year ago, these two will provide valuable leadership to the newcomers looking to make their marks in a new season.

The Cyclones biggest test Saturday will be stopping the explosive pair of UNI wideouts. Iowa State has had a pension for being troubled by big play wideouts and the two speed-burners from Northern Iowa shouldn’t be any different.

Returning at corner back to help make that task a little easier is veteran performer Atif Austin.

Head coach Dan McCarney was pleased with the progress made by Austin in coming back from off-season shoulder surgery that kept him out of spring ball.

“He’s doing great,” McCarney said. “He’s had a good camp and he has really come on strong.”

McCarney also likes the speed and talent in the defensive secondary, with players like Harold Clewis, Bryan Ollie, and Johnny Smith all hoping to contribute.

“They do lack experience, but from a talent and enthusiasm standpoint, they’re as good a group as I’ve been around since I’ve been here at Iowa State,” McCarney said.