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CEDAR FALLS | Edward Grimes, Terry Orth, Joe Fuller, Moses Aimable and Mark Farley.

In 1985, all five of those former Northern Iowa defensive players were named all-Gateway Conference first team. Farley was the defensive player of the year.

A few weeks after those selections were announced, that group allowed 40 points and 505 yards in a I-AA playoff semifinal 40-33 loss to Georgia Southern and its slick triple-option 'Ham bone' offense in what is considered one of the greatest games ever played inside the UNI-Dome.

What do those numbers have to do with the 38 points and 543 yards UNI gave up in a 45-38 overtime win over Cal Poly Saturday at the UNI-Dome?

Farley, now the Panthers head coach, would probably say not much because the Mustangs and quarterback Khaleel Jenkins do not compare to GSU quarterback Tracy Ham, and the 1985 I-AA national champion Eagles.

But what it illustrates is one of the best defenses in UNI history, with just five days to prepare for a triple-option offense, had trouble figuring it out.

Flash back to Saturday and a UNI team flush with first year contributors in its defensive backfield, Cal Poly exploited the young Panthers and their unfamiliarity of an offense they will face just once during the 2017 regular season.

"That offense is not a conventional offense," Farley said afterwards. "They got behind us and those things need to be fixed."

While some of the mistakes the Panthers made Saturday defensively were discipline mistakes and can be fixed through game film and practice, others were the same mistakes Cal Poly's future opponents will make.

Farley his team will learn and grow from this experience and he definitely learned something about the depth of both his defense and offense. Farley felt redshirt freshman cornerback Xavior Williams and redshirt freshman linebacker Jake Hartford held their own when inserted into the lineup in the second half.

"I was pleased with the experience we gained and the players we found through the process of winning," Farley said.

The Panthers definitely feel that with just two games under their belts that mistakes like they made in the victory will occur less and less as the season goes on.

"We have a lot more progress we can make," defensive end Adam Reth said. "They threw those touchdowns there, and I feel we could've had an influence on it. I definitely feel we can work on our pass rush more so there are definite strides that can be made to be better. We will keep working."

What Farley and his team might learn most from the close win that saw them blow a 14-point lead in the final two minutes, is how they came together and regrouped in overtime.

All the momentum was on Cal Poly's side of the field, but it didn't stay that way long through a combination of the offense making plays, the defensive making plays and the crowd getting involved and making it hard for the Mustangs to make offensive checks.

"What I saw was people step up into leadership roles," Farley said. "I saw young players take on a challenge and overcome adversity. You get to overtime ... it is hard to win in OT. But they gathered themselves and made tremendous plays.

"That was a home win. That was so fun, now that it is over, to hear the excitement in that place."

Reth said it was UNI's next play mentality and the Panthers not letting the end of regulation effect how it played in overtime.

"It was a team win. The offense went out and did what they needed to do and it was the defenses' turn to do what we do," Reth said of overtime.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Cal Poly rushed 72 times which meant UNI's defensive front saw a lot of action and it showed in the final tackle statistics

Reth was second on the team with 14 tackles, while defensive tackle Preston Woods had 11 and defensive tackle Bryce Douglas nine. Hezekiah Applegate recorded just six tackles, but had a team-high two for loss.

Linebacker Duncan Ferch's 15 tackles were a career best, while placekicker Sam Drysdale booted a career-long 45-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.

Contact Jim Nelson at jim.nelson@wcfcourier.com.

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