CEDAR FALLS — All through the off-season, as well as spring and fall practice, Northern Iowa head coach Mark Farley insisted the quarterback race was a two-man battle. With two guys capable of leading the offense, it was a good problem to have.
But, obviously, there can only be one starter each week, and it was Sawyer Kollmorgen who Farley said “won the job” over Brion Carnes and will take the field under center to begin the game against Iowa on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
“We’ll start Sawyer, and see how we can work Brion in from there,” Farley said. “It was probably just (Sawyer’s) consistency in all phases of the game. Brion’s done a great job, he’s really developed as a nice passer, but when you look at the all-encompassing part of the game, and the talent we have at running back, you try to put the players on the field that gives you the best combination.
“And maybe all those things came into play over time. I don’t know if there’s one certain thing that made me decide. Right now, he’s consistent and that consistent (makes) you trust him with every call you make.”
Farley made it clear, though, that just because Carnes wasn’t starting at quarterback didn’t mean he was going to be married to the bench.
When asked if Carnes, whose athletic ability is unquestioned, would be used in any other spots on the field aside from quarterback, the 14th-year coach gave a wry smile, paused and then laughed before giving his answer. After all, Carnes did have one catch at receiver last season.
“Yeah. There’s a possibility for anything. We’re going to use everybody on our team to try to find a way to win,” Farley said with a smile, to laughter in the room. “We need to make our team strong, but we also need to put the right guys on the field to give our chance in the football game to win.”
Laughter aside, Farley is serious about getting the most out of Carnes’ playmaking ability.
Kollmorgen’s consistency may have won him the starting job, and he’s shown the ability to play winning football. But that doesn’t mean he’ll absolutely play all game every game. Carnes showed marked improvement under center in his time on the field during last season’s 7-5 campaign, and furthered that throughout the off-season.
Farley said “there’s no timeline on anybody,” for snaps at a quarterback, rather the flow of the game and situational need will decide for the coaches. That said, you could probably count on both Kollmorgen and Carnes seeing time against the Hawkeyes, as well as throughout this season.
“I think Sawyer won the job, and I want him to know it’s his job. But at the same time, we’ve also got a quality player in Brion,” Farley said. “I think you’ll see Brion before the day is out (on Saturday against Iowa). How early that is, we’ll see how everything transpires. Being the first game, you never really know what to expect. But Brion, I don’t think there’s any certain, ‘He’s going to go in this play,’ — I don’t think there’s any plan like that. There wasn’t one last year. But we do have a plan for how we use Brion when he is in the game. We’ll use it as the game transpires and see how it unfolds.”
Northern Iowa and Iowa are set to kick off at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.
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