CEDAR FALLS -- Northern Iowa's progress cannot stop just because the Panthers achieved some success Saturday in a victory over Southern Illinois.
That was the message UNI head coach Mark Farley delivered Monday as the Panthers began preparations to host No. 15 Western Illinois Saturday at 4 p.m. in the UNI-Dome for Homecoming.
"We can't afford to rest," Farley said. "We are at the stage where we must get better today and then we will be ready for Saturday."
The message was heard loud and clear by the Panthers, who know, beginning with Leathernecks start the gauntlet of their league schedule.
After Western Illinois, UNI travels to No. 8 South Dakota State, host No. 3 Youngstown State, go to No. 2 North Dakota State, and then close out the meat grinder by welcoming No 7 South Dakota to the UNI-Dome on Nov. 4.
"The thing I would say is we got to keep it moving," linebacker A.J. Allen said. "Keep the momentum going. We had a productive bye week and got some things figured out. As you can see it benefited us and our biggest thing is keep building on that foundation, build on top of that."
To have more success this weekend against Western, UNI figures it has to follow a similar, possibly more refined script it used against Southern Illinois.
Using a short passing game early against the Salukis as almost an extension of a run game that saw the Panthers run for a season-high 133 yards, UNI was in manageable third-down conversions all night long and converted on eight of 16 of those situations after entering the game just 15 of 47 in its previous three games.
By converting third downs, UNI kept the ball away from SIU's high-powered offense that was averaging 40 points a game. The Panthers held the ball for 36 minutes and 55 seconds against the Salukis.
Western Illinois also ranks among the top FCS scoring teams in the nation at 40 plus.
"We were able to control the football game," Farley said. "A lot of it had to do with the rushing game and getting into situations so we had a choice of what to do on second down. third down and short instead of always being behind the chains or third and long."
As for the schedule, Farley says that is life inside the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
"Really all it means is you got one win in the Valley," Farley said of the road victory. "It will only continue to get stronger and stronger as we progress through it ... because everybody is good and it is a top-ten game every time you line up right now.
"It's another tough one this week as Western Illinois is a very good team."
LANE HONORED: True freshman safety Suni Lane was named the MVFC Newcomer of the week after recording seven tackles and recovering a fumble late in the game.
"Suni has been a nice surprise for us," Farley said. "When we recruited him we thought he might be a receiver for us and put him at receiver initially. But after we saw him run and do some things athletically ... we needed some depth on defense and we moved him to free safety and that is when he really started to show up."
INJURY UPDATES: UNI did not miss a beat Saturday along the offensive line despite the absence of starting left tackle Cal Twait as Jacob Appleman filled in admirably.
Farley said Twait, who has a lower-body injury, has a chance to play against the Leathernecks.
"He wasn't available yesterday, but by Tuesday or Wednesday he might," Farley said if Twait would practice. "How much he practices this week I don't know, but he has the possibility of playing."
Farley said Twait ran before Saturday's game at SIU, but wasn't at the level he needed to be to be able to play effectively.