Morgan State, coming off an open date, will be on the road for the fourth straight week when it opposes Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls on Saturday afternoon. The week off gave several injured players a chance to recover, but there are other problems to contend with.
The Northern Iowa fans have a tradition of shaking keys when the visiting team has the ball, and at the 16,400-seat UNI-Dome, that can mean a lot of noise.
"The crowd is quiet when its team has the ball, but when the other side gets it, with everybody shaking keys, you can't hear anything else," said Joe McIver, a Morgan State assistant athletic director.
McIver was at the first game of this series, a 59-14 Northern Iowa win in 1988. "We weren't ready for it, and never really handled it very well. We didn't score until the fourth quarter."
There probably isn't a way to prepare for it, even if you've heard it before, and now here come first-year head coach Ricky Diggs and freshman quarterback Michael Moore, the two most likely to be affected by the action.
In Northern Iowa (3-1), Morgan State (0-4) will be facing the No. 9 team in Division I-AA. The Panthers bounced back from their only loss, 21-20 to Southern Illinois, to defeat the University of Idaho last Saturday, 36-14.
Moore, 6 feet, 180 pounds, has had to learn a lot in a short time. A preseason shoulder injury to regular quarterback David Partin put Moore in the starting lineup for the season-opener at home against North Carolina A&T. Morgan State led at the half before its lack of depth was exploited in a 26-7 loss.
"I've looked at film, but it is more to see my mistakes and learn from them, than it is to see the opposing defenses," Moore said yesterday. "In that first game, I outran my protection, so I concentrated on that the next week.
"After four games, I'm more relaxed, and I'm not worried about the other team. I'm more concerned with doing my own job, helping my teammates do theirs, getting the proper execution.
"As a quarterback, I'm seeing things better, the opposing coverages, the open receivers. We're all working on improving."
One area that has shown improvement in the past month is a revamped offensive line. With Jeff Myers and James Ledbetter the tackles, Scott Nelson and Ernest Johnson the guards and Craig Still at center, the group averages 262 pounds. Ledbetter and Still are four-year starters, and Nelson is on his way back from a knee injury.
"In the last game [a 57-22 loss at Youngstown State], the pass protection was much better and I was able to have some time to get the throws off," Moore said.
Against A&T, Moore was 7-for-15 passing, and at Youngstown, he had a season-high 15 completions in 23 attempts, with the ball going to seven receivers, headed by running back Nathan Ayers with four. The points and total yardage (233) were season bests for the Bears.
Moore originally was recruited by L. C. Cole, an assistant at the University of Toledo, Moore's hometown. "At one point last spring, I thought he'd forgotten about me, because I called the school and they said he didn't work there anymore," Moore said.
"About two weeks later, he called, said he was an assistant at Morgan State and he was still interested in me. I'd never heard of the school, but figured I'd come and see what happened. If not for him, I'd probably be home Saturday afternoons watching games on TV."
Diggs is positive about the situation. "I see improvement every day, but we still need to cut down on the little mistakes," he said. "Without them, we might have won a game or two by now. We feel the players are giving 100 percent, and I really can't ask for more than that -- but I probably will."