The 21st-ranked Iowa State Cyclones came into the game as a 18.5-point favorite Saturday afternoon. However, Vegas and the rest of the country didn’t account for Northern Iowa’s redshirt freshmen Will McElvain and his ability to produce some magic to keep the ball out of the Cyclone’s hands.
It didn’t come as a surprise that Iowa State made some miscues early in the game, since it was the first game of the season. Not making things any better, there were some unfortunate calls that slowed down Brock Purdy and his offense.
Even though the Cyclone’s offense settled in and the running game was strong, ISU either stalled once they crossed midfield, and settled for field goals. The Cyclone’s inability to convert in the red zone made this game a lot closer that it was at 29-26. That won’t cut it in Big 12 play, or against in-state rival Iowa in a couple of weeks.
Key Plays of the Game
12:37 1st [ISU 3rd & 1 at 50] – Deshaunte Jones droped a wide receiver screen. It would have been a first down. Instead, the Cylcones were forced to punt, and killed the momentum they had after overcoming a bad blindside block penalty.
1:54 1st [ISU 1st & 10 at UNI 25] – Johnny Lang rushed up the middle for 17 yards down to their eight-yard line. However, right guard Josh Knipfel lost his helmet but continued to help push the pile. That’s a personal foul for participating in the play after his helmet came off. The penalty backed the Cyclones up to the 29-yard line and ended up having to settle for a field goal.
3:47 2nd [ISU 3rd & 1 at UNI 41] – On third and one yard to gain, Brock Purdy overthrew a wide-open Tarique Milton on a five-yard in route. Iowa State then went for it on fourth down and UNI read the play and made the stop. It was another missed opportunity for the Cylones.
0:14 3rd [ISU 3rd & 10 at UNI 46] – Panther defensive end Elerson Smith got to Brock Purdy and forced the fumble. Xavior Williams scooped it up to give Northern Iowa a 13-10 lead.
9:41 4th [ISU 4th & 4 at UNI 13] – Connor Assalley misses a 31-yard field goal that would have tied the game at 13-all.
4:48 4th [ISU 4th & 4 at UNI 38] – Facing another fourth down and four yards to go, Brock Purdy hit Charlie Kolar on a 6-yard out to keep the drive alive. Iowa State kicked the eventual game tying field goal with just under a minute remaining in the game.
3rd OT [ISU 3rd & 1 at UNI 2] – Sheldon Croney took the hand off up the middle, but was stood up at the two yard line and fumbled the ball. With the game on the line and the ball on the ground for the taking, Brock Purdy sprinted and dove head first to make the recovery. After nearly fumbling the game away, Croney got redemption and ran it from the one-yard line on the following play for the win.
Key Stats of the Game
34 yards rushing – The Cyclone defense held the Panthers to just 34 yards on 31 attempts.
45 carries – Johnny Lang, Sheldon Croney and Breece Hall all carried the ball over 11 times (38 total) or more and averaged 4.3 yards per rush for a combined 163 yards on the ground.
237 first down yards – The Iowa State offense got over half of their total yards on first down averaging 5.9 yards on first down.
Players of the Game
Brock Purdy [30-41 278 yards 2 TD] – Although Purdy missed some throws, he completed 73.2% (30-41) of his passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns. It’s not “Big 12 numbers”, but with receivers playing new roles and finding an identity on offense, that’s an efficient day. Plus, he laid his body on the line recovering the fumble at the one-yard line
Deshaunte Jones [14 rec 126 yards] – He was targeted 16 times and hauled in 14 of them for 126 yards including a one-handed catch and turned it upfield for the first down midway through the fourth quarter.
O’Rien Vance [8 tackles, 6 solo, 2 sacks] = Northern Iowa QB Will McElvain scrambled around all day but Vance was able to get to him for two of the teams three sacks.
Iowa State overcame the adversity. No matter what national pundits say, playing a smaller school within the state is always dangerous, especially a good program like Northern Iowa. The Cyclones had some drive killing unfortunate calls early that made the Panthers believe they could win. For box score scanners, they may not understand how the game played out. ISU fans know that before Matt Campbell, this is a game they would have lost.
A big body is needed. A program doesn’t simply replace a player like Hakeem Butler and the plays he was able to make. However, the Cyclones started to utilize tight ends Charlie Kolar and Dylan Soehner in the second half, and they may be the chain movers ISU will use moving forward.
Using running backs by committee. Iowa State was able to lean on Mike Montgomery the last couple of years but when he was held out of games due to injury, the running game had a big drop off. Although its just one game, Iowa State appears they have three capable running backs that can carry them through a long season.