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CEDAR FALLS – Mark Farley made it official Wednesday.

After a spectacular second half performance in Northern Iowa’s win over Sacramento State, Michigan State transfer Theo Day is the Panthers’ new starting quarterback.

Day will take the first snap Saturday when UNI hosts St. Thomas at 4:05 p.m. inside the UNI-Dome.

“We have been looking at this for a long time and I believe he earned the right with how he played that particular day to become the starter,” Farley said. “He made the most of his opportunity Saturday against Sacramento State.

“I’ve told all these guys when you get an opportunity you better be ready for it because you don’t know when it is going to come. If you are ready for it and you do well you are going to get more opportunities. Theo did that and that is why he is getting another opportunity.”

The 6-foot-5, 222-pound Day was the No. 1 quarterback recruit in the state of Michigan in 2018.

Day played five snaps in his MSU career, throwing three passes, completing two for 12 yards. He transferred to UNI in the offseason.

Against Sac State, Day replaced McElvain at the start of the third quarter and promptly led the Panthers on touchdown drives with his first four possessions.

With that difficult decision to replace two-year starter Will McElvain out of the way, Farley said the Panthers full attention should be on Saturday’s quality opponent in St. Thomas.

Members of the non-scholarship Pioneer League, the same league Drake University University is a member, the former Division III Tommies are in their first season at the FCS level.

Last week, St. Thomas beat Division II Michigan Tech last weekend in comeback fashion, 12-9, when Louis Hyde hit a 32-yard field goal with 59 seconds left.

Two big plays contributed to the victory.

First tight end Aiden Carlson recovered a St. Thomas fumble in the end zone on the tail end of a fourth-and-inches play with 5:43 left in the game to tie it. After forcing a three-and-out, Hyde’s field goal put the Tommies ahead. Then with Michigan Tech driving, Johnson Fallah intercepted a Tech pass with 14 seconds left to clinch the victory.

“I’ve been watching them,” Farley said. “Trust me they have very good players and will be excited to be here. I expect them to make a big leap between their first game and there second football game.”

St. Thomas has made eight Division III playoff appearances in the last 11 season, including NCAA runner-up finishes in 2012 and 2015. Since 2009, the Tommies have had 34 all-American players and head coach Glenn Caruso has been named National Coach of the Year six times by three different organizations.

“We definitely expect them to come in here with a chip on their shoulder,” UNI linebacker Alfonzo Lambert said. “But we have a chip on our shoulder, too. We have big plans for this year and we are not going to take them any different than any other opponent.

“We are going to play St. Thomas just like we played Iowa State. We have to have that mindset so we are ready.”

Farley says the Tommies won’t come to the dome intimidated.

“They are a confident football team with all the success they have had over the years,” Farley adds. “Success is confidence and confidence in how you play. They are not winning by accident.

“They are a very well coached football team. A very sound football team, and a very athletic football team.”

This article originally ran on wcfcourier.com.

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