Iowa Sports

ISU searcing for offensive rhythm

A ho-hum win over an FCS opponent and a crushing loss to rival Iowa have left Iowa State looking for answers as it prepares to go on the road to play UNLV.
“I just feel like we’re pressing too much and we’re not having fun like we were,” running back Breece Hall said Tuesday. “In a way I feel like we may have been trying to live up to all the expectations when we should only be worried about the expectations we have for each other and for ourselves.”
Hopes were high for the 14th-ranked Cyclones coming into the season. They made it to the Big 12 championship game last year, beat Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl and earned their highest preseason ranking at No. 7.
But they struggled to beat Northern Iowa 16-10 and then, in the biggest home game in program history, turned over the ball four times in a 27-17 loss to the Hawkeyes.
Fair or not, much of the blame has fallen on fourth-year starting quarterback Brock Purdy. He was pulled from last week’s game early in the fourth quarter after throwing three interceptions. He’s yet to throw a touchdown pass this season.
“That’s gut-wrenching when it doesn’t go your way, and some of the things that happened in the game aren’t on you as the quarterback but everyone’s perception is that it is,” coach Matt Campbell said. “The reality of it is that it’s tough to play that position. He’s played it four years, and he knows how to handle tough times.”
Campbell said the Cyclones are going to ride with Purdy, who has more wins than any quarterback in program history and is on the cusp of becoming the Cyclones’ all-time leader in passing and total offense.
“I have a lot of trust in Brock,” flanker Jared Rus said. “I’m not worried about him at all. He’s one of the best players to ever play here. We have to have his back and make sure everything is good, and we’re going to come back ready to play.”
Purdy has not spoken to the media since the preseason. Hall, his roommate, said Purdy was frustrated after the Iowa game and spent the hours afterward watching a movie alone in his room rather than watching football with Hall.
“That’s what comes with being a quarterback, the good and bad,” Hall said. “Whether the team wins or loses, it’s going to all be on Brock. He stays humble with it. He’s going to have a bad game and that’s just what it is. Brock is fine.”
The Cyclones’ offense is second to last in the Big 12 at 337 yards per game, about 100 under its 2020 average. ISU has gone three plays and out on seven of its 25 possessions and four other non-scoring drives lasted no more than five plays. The Cyclones’ four plays of 20 yards or longer ranks last in the conference.
Hall rushed for a nation-leading 1,572 yards and had nine games with at least 100 yards last year. He opened this season with two straight 69-yard games, he’s averaging only 3.5 yards per carry, and he had a fumble against Iowa.
Slow starts are nothing new for Iowa State, and there is an opportunity to get rolling against a UNLV defense that gives up 468 yards and 36 points per game to rank near the bottom of the FBS.
“I just feel the same as last year,” Hall said. “We didn’t want it to happen this year but sometimes that’s for the best. Sometimes teams need to get that loss or get smacked in the mouth a little bit before they really reach their stride, so I’m excited to see how we bounce back.”

Iowa Sports

No. 5 Hawkeyes seeking more balance

IOWA CITY — Thanks to a strong defense, No. 5 Iowa has its highest ranking since 2015. The Hawkeyes need more production from their offense if they’re going to stay there.
“Obviously we haven’t done as (well) as we think we can as an offense,” left tackle Mason Richman said. “And I think that’s exciting, especially after winning both games. It means we can keep getting better, keep improving as a unit.”
The Hawkeyes (2-0, 1-0 Big Ten) beat consecutive ranked opponents in Indiana and Iowa State. But they are last in the Big Ten in rushing, passing and total offense and three of the team’s seven touchdowns have been scored by the defense.
“We’ve gotten a lot of help from our defense,” tight end Luke Lachey said. “It’s a team sport, and we’ll take that, for sure. But our offense isn’t where we think it can be, and it starts everywhere.”
The Hawkeyes got two interception returns for touchdowns from cornerback Riley Moss in the 34-6 season-opening win over Indiana. Linebacker Jack Campbell had a fumble return for a touchdown, and Iowa got 20 points off four Iowa State turnovers in last Saturday’s 27-17 win. Iowa’s defense has forced seven turnovers, leading to 37 points, to start the season.
The Hawkeyes rank 126th out of 130 FBS teams in total offense, averaging 238 yards per game. They are 104th in rushing offense (112.5 yards per game) and 122nd in passing (125.5 yards per game).
The Hawkeyes had minus-6 yards of offense in the third quarter against Iowa State but scored 10 points in the quarter on Campbell’s return and Caleb Shudak’s field goal set up by an interception by linebacker Seth Benson.
Punter Tory Taylor has been a part of the Hawkeyes’ success as well. Taylor ranks sixth nationally with an average of 50.4 yards per punt, with seven of his 14 going for 50 yards or more and six punts landing inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.
“Tory does a great job of pinning teams back inside the 10,” receiver Charlie Jones said. “He’s one of the best, if not the best.”
The expected playmakers on offense have been steady without a lot of impact.
Quarterback Spencer Petras, in his second season as a starter, has completed 24 of 48 passes for 251 yards and a touchdown. Running back Tyler Goodson has 154 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Sam LaPorta leads the team with six catches for 104 yards.
The Hawkeyes’ offensive line is young outside of center Tyler Linderbaum, a preseason Associated Press All-American. Richman is a redshirt freshman, right tackle Nick DeJong is a sophomore, right guard Justin Britt is a sophomore and left guard Cody Ince is a junior.
Senior right guard Kyler Schott, who broke his foot in a farm accident before preseason practice began, is expected to return Saturday against Kent State.
“I look at our football team coming out of August, we’re young at both lines, from an experience standpoint,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “You look at the offensive line, we expected some bumps, at least I did. It was part of the process. I am pleased with how the guys have held up. What I would be concerned about is if we didn’t see continual growth.”
It has helped that the Hawkeyes have built big leads in both games. They led 31-3 at halftime against Indiana and had a 27-10 lead early in the fourth quarter against Iowa State. That has allowed the offense to play at a different tempo.
“We want to be as aggressive as possible,” Jones said. “But that’s kind of out of our control a little bit. That’s up to the coaches.”
Ferentz said he expects there will be improvement.
“Certainly we don’t have the consistency we need,” he said. “But it will come.”

Iowa Sports

Hawkeyes still the Iowa gold standard

AMES — Iowa defensive end Zach VanValkenburg and offensive lineman Jack Plumb marched across the end zone with the Cy-Hawk Trophy perched on their shoulders, showing it off to the Hawkeyes fans who had come to Jack Trice Stadium to see the biggest game in the history of the rivalry with Iowa State.
The trophy checks in at about 90 pounds, and for all the progress the ninth-ranked Cyclone have made in recent years, they just can’t pry it away from the Hawkeyes.
Jack Campbell returned a fumble 6 yards for a touchdown and No. 10 Iowa ran its winning streak against Iowa State to six games with a 27-17 victory Saturday that ruined the most-anticipated home game in Cyclones history.
In the first Cy-Hawk game matching ranked teams in 65 total meetings, the Hawkeyes (2-0) were not about to play the foil for Iowa State’s feel-good story.
The Cyclones (1-1) hosted ESPN’s “GameDay,” and after years of mediocrity — at best — they came into this season ranked in the top 10.
Ames was rocking, but the rivals from across the state sucked the life out of Jack Trice.
Iowa linebacker Jestin Jacobs said the atmosphere was “crazy.”
“You really can’t describe it until you’re in it,” Jacobs said. “Just to get that win in hostile territory fills you with emotion.”
Iowa turned four takeaways into 20 points, ran its overall winning streak to eight games and its winning streak against ranked teams to five. Iowa has not won that many in a row against ranked opponents since 1960.
“Polls in September, they really don’t mean a lot,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “But for us it’s all about building a team.”
This Iowa team looks like a contender in the Big Ten thanks to its defense.
“You talk about physicality, that’s what you do at Iowa,” said Campbell, who had eight tackles and half a sack.
The Hawkeyes used the same formula as last week when they had two defensive touchdowns in a rout of Indiana, another upstart program looking to build off 2020’s success.
The Cyclones came into this season with sky-high expectations, a loaded and experienced roster and hot-commodity coach. One significant milestone has eluded Iowa State during its program renaissance and four straight winning seasons of under Matt Campbell: A victory against Iowa.
Maybe the Cyclones will have better luck in the Big 12 because the Hawkeyes remain heartbreakers.
“Somewhere along the line I have failed this team to be prepared for this moment,” said Campbell, who fell to 0-5 against Iowa. “I think the lack of execution really falls on my shoulders.”
With the Cyclones backed up to their goal line, All-American Breece Hall was stripped by Jacobs. Campbell scooped the bouncing ball and took a couple of strides into the end zone to make it 21-10 with 5:08 left in the third quarter.
The Hawkeyes celebrated while Hall was face down on the turf for a few extra seconds, frustrated by a critical mistake. One that has become so common in this series for Iowa State.
Hall was held to 93 total yards and a touchdown on 20 touches.
Matt Hankins had two of Iowa’s three interceptions against Brock Purdy, who was benched for Hunter Dekkers early in the fourth quarter.
Hankins’ second pick at the end of the third quarter left the Hawkeyes in Iowa State territory and seemed to kill all hope for the Cyclones’ sellout crowd of 61,500.
“You could definitely feel it, just the momentum shift,” Hankins said. “Definitely feel the energy change.”
The hype song “Jump Around” blared inside Jack Trice Stadium heading into the fourth quarter, but it hardly caused a stir in the stands on a hot, mercifully overcast day in Ames.
Caleb Shudak hit a 22-yard field goal to make it 27-10 with 12:53 left in the fourth and that was pretty much it.
The Hawkeyes’ offense managed just 173 yards, but it was good enough.
Iowa: The takeaway is all about takeaways for Iowa against Iowa State. In the past five meetings, Iowa is plus-9 in turnover margin with no giveaways.
Iowa State: Purdy is a four-year starter and a huge part of Iowa State’s turnaround, but he has been flummoxed by the Hawkeyes. He finished 13 for 27 for 138 yards in this one.
Dekkers is considered the future, a second-year freshman. Playing against an Iowa defense that was playing it safe, he went 11 for 16 for 114 yards and a touchdown.
Campbell tried to quell any talk of a quarterback controversy, backing Purdy.
“If I know Brock Purdy, he’ll bounce back better than ever,” Campbell said.
Iowa might be the highest-ranked team in the Big Ten when the new Top 25 comes out Sunday.
Iowa State might be unranked.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes host Kent State to start a two-game homestand.
Iowa State: The Cyclones go to UNLV to close out the nonconference schedule for the first of two straight weeks road games.

Iowa Sports

A magical time to be a Cyclone

AMES — Two big rigs were parked next to Reiman Plaza, the green space that leads to the south end zone entrance of Jack Trice Stadium, home to a most unlikely success story.
The trucks were delivering sound and lighting equipment to go with the stacks of metal bleachers, piles of plywood, and crates and cases containing the necessary parts to turn Iowa State into the epicenter of college football this weekend.
The Cyclones are having a moment.
No. 9 Iowa State is preparing to play what is undeniably the biggest home game in the 129-year history of the program. The top-10 matchup with rival Iowa on Saturday drew ESPN’s popular pregame show, “College GameDay,” to Reiman Plaza.
After decades of being a college football afterthought, Iowa State has reached the big time. And the looming uncertainty of conference realignment is not about to spoil this moment for the Cyclones and their supporters.
“I’m just trying to really focus on this season and this team and give them my full attention and appreciation. And the future will sort of take care of itself,” former Iowa State quarterback Sage Rosenfels said. “You just don’t have much control over it.”
Such is life in college football’s vast middle class, where the whims and wants of the sports’ blue bloods shape the landscape and somewhat randomly determine the haves and havenots.
Texas and Oklahoma made the Big 12 a Power Five conference, which generated the revenue, resources and exposure that Iowa State has used to transform its football program. But in July, the Longhorns and Sooners decided they will leave Iowa State and the rest of the Big 12 behind to join the Southeastern Conference in 2025.
This has been something of a trend in college football over the last decade or so. When there is an uprising in an unusual place, the establishment tends to figure out ways to push it down.
Boise State used the BCS to raise its profile and become a national power. When the BCS was replaced by the College Football Playoff it established more clearly the Power Five conferences and their big-money schools, further marginalizing schools outside those leagues. Boise State hasn’t been a national contender since.
Not long ago, there were six power conferences in major college football. The Big East held equal status with the Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, Atlantic Coast Conference and Pac-12.
Even after Miami and Virginia Tech were snatched from the Big East, its status (and the money that came with it) provided a platform for schools such as Rutgers, UConn and USF to have their moments. Eventually, the conference was poached to death by its peers.
Now the Big 12 is in danger of losing its place inside the velvet ropes — and Iowa State has been here before. During the last round of realignment, the Cyclones were among the schools in danger of being relegated to a less lucrative and prestigious conference as Texas twice flirted with the Pac-12.
Nebraska, Texas A&M, Colorado and Missouri fled the Big 12, untethering themselves from Texas.
Iowa State, along with Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas Tech, didn’t have an escape hatch. Tied to Texas and Oklahoma, it worked out well for a while. The Big 12 was paid billions for its television right, with Oklahoma and Texas essentially funding their competition.
The Big 12 has a plan for life after Texas and Oklahoma, But it will not be as profitable and it won’t be as interesting without the chance for the remaining eight to punch above their weight class and occasionally connect.
As a member of the Big Eight and Big 12, Iowa State spent decades playing the foil to Oklahoma, Texas and Nebraska. Iowa State never came close to winning the Big Eight and is 11-91-2 against the Sooners and Longhorns; four of those victories have come in the last four seasons.
In the mid-1990s, Troy Davis had consecutive 2,000-yard rushing seasons for the Cyclones and a runner-up finish in Heisman Trophy voting. It was the highlight of two decades of futility during which Iowa State never played in a bowl game.
Former Iowa State quarterback Todd Bandhauer played on teams that won a total of nine games from 1994-98. The program was run on shoestring budgets, he said, and even getting a new pair of cleats during the season was a big ask.
“It was just really difficult to recruit to Iowa State when you’re basically playing in the equivalent and training in the equivalent of high school facilities or less,” Bandhauer said. “I don’t think we have that level of disparity now.”
Dan McCarney, an Iowa native who played for the Hawkeyes in the 1970s, took over as coach in Ames in 1995 and quickly realized the Cyclones were way behind the competition.
“The facilities were so far in the Dark Ages. Fundraising was in the Dark Ages,” McCarney said.
The Cyclones went to five bowl games in 12 seasons under McCarney, showing modest success was attainable. Under current coach Matt Campbell, the Cyclones have ripped off four straight winning season, something that hadn’t been done in Ames in a century.
What changed?
“The college football landscape was totally different,” Bandhauer said. “And now there is just so much more money in college football. And Iowa State was definitely on the positive receiving end of that, being in the Big 12.”
Iowa State has spent $330 million on athletic facilities during athletic director Jamie Pollard’s 17-year tenure. The stadium now has the third-largest capacity in the Big 12 behind Texas and Oklahoma at 61,000.
That commitment helped lure Campbell to Ames in 2015. The 41-year-old Ohio native was a wunderkind at Toledo, one of the youngest coaches in FBS, and he went 35-15 at the Mid-American Conference school.
Campbell believed in Iowa State’s potential and then unlocked it.
“It’s not easy to be done, we know that,” Campbell said. “I do think as a you come to the stadium, last Saturday you walk out to the field, you get this fanbase back, you see the skyline has changed here. You take it in, there’s a great sense of appreciation. There is pride about being Cyclone right now.”
Last season, Iowa State matched the school record with nine wins, reached the Big 12 title game for the first time and finished ninth in the AP Top 25, by far the Cyclones’ best ranking ever.
Almost every key player is back for the Cyclones, including preseason All-Americans Breece Hall at running back, Charlie Kolar at tight end and Mike Rose at linebacker.
College football’s economic engine is driven by the traditional powers —- Alabama and Ohio State, USC and Notre Dame, Texas and Oklahoma —- but teams such as Iowa State energize a season.
“This is what college football is about,” retired Iowa State sports information director Tom Kroeschell said.
Continued consolidation of college football around the biggest brands will make it less likely for the next Iowa State to have its moment. The sport will be worse for it.

Iowa Sports

Ferentz knows what it’s like to be in Campbell’s shoes

AMES (AP) — Kirk Ferentz has been where Matt Campbell is in his career.
Successful college coach in his 40s, sought after by other schools and the NFL.
Ferentz decided to stay at Iowa and has become an institution in Iowa City, currently the longest-tenured head coach at one school in major college football and one of the winningest in Big Ten history. There have been bumps along the way, but Ferentz’s 23rd season with Iowa has a chance to be one of his best.
In five seasons with Iowa State, Campbell has already turned down opportunities to leave. If this season comes even close to reaching the lofty expectations set for the Cyclones, there will be even more suitors trying lure him out of Ames.
“I know this, the experts sometimes will say, ‘Geez, I can’t believe he didn’t want to go to this college, or a pro job, or whatever.’ Really, it’s hard for other people to judge what’s important to another person in that position to make a decision,” the 66-year-old Ferentz said this week.
The 41-year-old Campbell took over a program with little history of success and has lifted it to unprecedented heights and shown he is in no rush to leave.
When Campbell and the ninth-ranked Cyclones (1-0) host No. 10 Iowa (1-0) on Saturday in the biggest Cy-Hawk rivalry game ever, all he has to do is look to the opposite sideline to see that a college football coach can make a pretty nice life for himself in the state of Iowa.
“They know who they are. They understand their identity. The ability to sustain success over a long period,” Campbell said of the Hawkeyes. “It’s hard to win in college football. To be able to win over an extended period of time, and sustain success, there’s a sincere respect factor for any coach that’s got the ability to do that and do it over a long period of time.”
Ferentz had his time as a hot commodity in coaching.
A former NFL assistant before taking over at Iowa for Hayden Fry in 1999, Ferentz revived the Hawkeyes, stringing together three consecutive seasons with at least 10 wins. The Jacksonville Jaguars came calling in 2003 and it seemed every time the Cleveland Browns made a coaching change, Ferentz’s name would come up.
Fretting over whether Ferentz would stay put was an almost annual event in Iowa City. But the shine can quickly wear off coaches.
Ferentz’s long-term contract and massive buyout turned into a bit of a joke around the Big Ten during five so-so seasons from 2010-14. Even Iowa fans began to wonder if they were now stuck with the coach they once worried about losing.
Since then, Iowa is 54-21, one of the few schools in major college football to embrace patience and stability.
“It’s an example to everyone in college athletics you don’t have to change faces and change coaches and administrators and (athletic directors) every four, five or six years,” said Dan McCarney, the former Iowa player who coached the Cyclones from 1995-2006. “There’s going to be ups and downs. Kirk’s gone through that. But look at the unbelievable track record now that Kirk and everybody at the University of Iowa has.”
The only real pressure Ferentz has faced was last year when some Black former players criticized him for maintaining a team culture that made it difficult for minorities to fit in. Ferentz’s longtime strength and conditioning coach, Chris Doyle, was let go, and he vowed to make changes in a program that had maybe become a bit too set in its ways.
Iowa State hopes it has found its Ferentz in Campbell.
Under Campbell, the Cyclones have played in a conference championship game for the first time, won a major bowl for the first time, finished first in its league for the first time in more than a century, won consecutive games against Texas and beaten Oklahoma twice.
Iowa State is 27-19 in the Big 12 under Campbell. To find a better conference winning percentage for an Iowa State coach, you’d have to go back more than 100 years.
These days, it’s Iowa State fans fretting about who is coming after their guy. Speculation and rumors about Campbell have swirled each of the last three years.
Campbell, whose most recent contract extension runs through 2028 and pays him $4 million per year, has insisted he is content in Ames and backed it up with his actions.
“The money that he turned down last year and the opportunity he had with the Detroit Lions is a classic example,” McCarney said. “His family loves Ames. His wife loves it. That doesn’t guarantee anything beyond this season. We all know that.”
Ferentz figures Campbell doesn’t need his advice, but he knows what led him to stay in Iowa.
“You decide what’s important to you, what are you looking for in the job you have over the long-term, and make that decision,” he said. “For some guys, it’s the higher the better. Some are more prudent or whatever.
“I’m always kind of amused by the people who are like, ‘Why wouldn’t he have done that?’ Yeah, whatever. Sometimes those moves don’t always work.”

Iowa Sports

Hawks shut down Indiana in Top-20 clash

IOWA CITY — Iowa cornerback Riley Moss wasn’t sure what happened.
Moss’ 30-yard interception return for a touchdown, the first of his two scores in the game, helped start No. 18 Iowa on the way to a 34-6 victory over No. 17 Indiana on Saturday in the opener for both teams.
Iowa intercepted three of Michael Penix Jr.’s passes — safety Dane Belton had the other interception — and had a fourth wiped out by a roughing-the-passer call.
“We were very prepared,” Moss said. “We absolutely won because of film (study), and our preparation. Our game plan today was to stop the big plays, stay on top. We made them work for their yards, and their points.”
The Hawkeyes led 7-0 after their first drive, when running back Tyler Goodson scored on a 56-yard touchdown on the fourth play of the possession.
“I don’t want to say I’m surprised, but I’m very pleased,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “It’s good team defense. I know that sounds mundane. But that’s how we play.”
Moss’ first interception came on Indiana’s third offensive play, when Penix’s pass went through the hands of receiver D.J. Matthews. Moss grabbed the ball and raced down the right sideline for the score.
“I was kind of sitting there,” Moss said. “(Penix) threw the ball, so I made a break on it to try to tackle (Matthews). I saw the ball pop up. I got super excited. I was foaming at the mouth to catch the ball. I didn’t realize I scored a touchdown until I was on the bench. I was like, ‘Holy cow, that happened.’”
Moss’ second interception came with 1:41 left in the first half, when he stepped into the path of a Penix pass and ran 55 yards for a touchdown that put Iowa up, 28-3.
“I did my job, and good things came from that,” Moss said.
“I’ve always seen Riley as a playmaker,” defensive end John Waggoner said. “He goes hard, and he shows up every day to work. He is a competitor, so in my mind he is going to go make plays, and you obviously saw that today.”
Iowa’s defense rattled Penix, who was just 14 of 31 passing for 156 yards. Penix, who had just four interceptions in six games last season, was coming off offseason knee surgery. He played until early in the fourth quarter, when Indiana coach Tom Allen took him out of the game.
“He definitely looked out of sync to me, not comfortable in the pocket,” Allen said. “We’ll get that fixed.”
Goodson rushed for 99 yards and a touchdown. Spencer Petras had a 9-yard touchdown run and completed 13 of 27 passes for 145 yards.
The Hawkeyes held the Hoosiers to 233 offensive yards, with only 31 rushing yards.
“It’s just playing with tempo, and making the other guys uneasy,” Ferentz said of his defense. “I think our guys did that.”
“We had to play better,” Allen said. “You have to play high-level football out of the gate against a team like this, and we didn’t.”
It was the seventh consecutive win for the Hawkeyes dating to last season. It was only the third loss for Indiana in its last 18 season openers.
“We got knocked down,” Allen said. “But we’ll get back up.”
Caleb Shudak had field goals of 41 and 35 yards for Iowa.
Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum went down with a minor injury on Petras’ touchdown run in the second quarter, but got up to play the rest of the game.
Linderbaum said he was hit in the thigh by someone’s helmet.
“Just a little banged up,” said Linderbaum, a preseason Associated Press All-American. “I’ll be fine.”
“I was a little nervous for Lindy at first,” Petras said. “But there’s no tougher guy in football than Tyler Linderbaum. I knew as soon as I saw him walking that he would be all right.”
“It’s going to take a lot to keep him out,” Ferentz said.
Indiana sophomore wide receiver Javon Swinton served a one-game suspension for violation of team rules.
Swinton played in eight games last season and had four receptions for 52 yards. He was No. 2 on the depth chart at one of the three receiver positions.
Iowa’s defense, which hasn’t allowed an opponent to score more than 24 points in a game in the last 23 games, was opportunistic. The Hawkeyes’ offense struggled at times, their quick start had the Hoosiers scrambling the the rest of the way.
The Hawkeyes should jump heading into next Saturday’s game at No. 7 Iowa State. The Hoosiers, in the preseason Associated Press poll for the first time since 1969, have been nationally ranked for 11 consecutive weeks.
Indiana: vs. Idaho Saturday.
Iowa: at Iowa State Saturday.

Iowa Sports

Cyclones fight off UNI

AMES — After another struggle with Northern Iowa, No. 7 Iowa State can turn its attention to its top in-state rivalry.
Datrone Young had a big interception with 2:05 left in the fourth quarter and the Cyclones staved off upset-minded Northern Iowa 16-10 Saturday to avoid becoming just the second top-10 team to lose to a team from Division I’s second-tier.
Iowa State was in danger of being on the short end of the biggest FCS over FBS upset since Michigan was No. 5 when it suffered a memorable loss to Appalachian State in 2007.
“It was great to play a tough game,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “It was great to play a team that’s going to give you their best shot.”
Having survived the opening close-call, Iowa State will likely head into he Cy-Hawk game next week against No. 18 Iowa ranked for the first time in the history of a series that dates to 1899.
Brock Purdy completed 21 of 26 passes for 197 yards, but the Cyclones were kept off-balance by a defense that returned all of its starters. Breece Hall, who led the nation with nine 100-yard games last year, was held to 69 yards on 23 carries.
Northern Iowa had two chances with the ball after Connor Assalley’s 21-yard field goal put the Cyclones up 16-10 with 6:18 left.
Young intercepted Will McElvain’s third-and-12 pass at the ISU 25 to end the second-to-last possession.
The Panthers forced a three-and-out and got the ball back at their 10 with 1:02 to play. McElvain got UNI to its 42 and threw to Sam Schnee, who was brought down at the Cyclones 43 as the clock ran out.
Iowa State, which has its highest preseason ranking in program history, was able to escape against an in-state rival that has won in Ames three times since 2007.
“What wasn’t good was the little things,” Campbell said. “Offensively, you’re talking about just a couple areas where you’re a hair off.”
The Panthers beat Iowa State in Campbell’s debut in 2016 and pushed the Cyclones to three overtimes before losing 29-26 in 2019.
Hall ran the ball just twice in the first quarter, but accounted for a combined 42 rushing and receiving yards as the Cyclones marched 59 yards on their first possession of second quarter. Hall put Iowa State ahead 10-7 with a 2-yard run, and the Cyclones led 13-10 at half.
Hall, who rushed for 1,572 yards and averaged 5.6 yards per carry in 2020, was held in check the rest of the game. He lost 2 yards when Iowa State was facing a third-and-goal from the 2 before Assalley kicked his second field goal.
“We’re all happy we won the game,” Hall said, “but we feel like we could have done better.”
McElvain ended up with 230 yards on 21-of-34 passing.
Iowa State leads the all-time series with Northern Iowa 24-6-3.
Iowa State: Hall, who has received preseason Heisman Trophy mention, struggled most of the game but scored a rushing touchdown in a school-record 13th straight game. That’s also the longest active streak in the nation.
Northern Iowa: The Panthers, who didn’t play last fall because of the pandemic, returned 22 starters after going 3-4 during a spring season. McElvain beat out Michigan State transfer Theo Day for the starting job and showed flashes. Day did not play.
Iowa State, in the AP Top 25 for 14 straight weeks, should stay but will the still be in the top 10?
Northern Iowa visits Sacramento State on Sept. 11.
Iowa State hosts Iowa on Sept. 11.

Iowa Sports

Iowa emrbacing early challenges

The Associated Press
IOWA CITY — The way its schedule sets up, Iowa is going to learn a lot about itself the next two weeks.
The 18th-ranked Hawkeyes open with back-to-back ranked opponents for the first time since 1974. Up first is No. 17 Indiana on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium, and then it’s a visit to No. 7 Iowa State for the CyHawk Game.
“The emotions of it are mostly excitement, to open up with those teams,” quarterback Spencer Petras said Tuesday. “You can’t ask for a better opportunity, to open up the 2021 season at home against a ranked opponent. It’s an opportunity to show what we can do.”
The Hawkeyes are looking for a better start than in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, when they lost their first two games.
“It’s definitely been something that’s been brought up, how we started 0-2,” center Tyler Linderbaum said. “It’s something that can’t happen this year.”
Turnovers were the culprit early in the eight-game conference-only schedule. Iowa lost two fumbles in a 24-20 loss to Purdue and Petras threw three interceptions in a 21-20 defeat to Northwestern. The Hawkeyes recovered, winning their final six games.
“We fell short the first two games last year,” tight end Sam LaPorta said. “We lost by a combined four points, five points. It’s just little details. There are maybe four or five plays that can change a game, and you don’t know they’re happening. You turn on the film on Sundays, and you know those are the game-changing plays. We had a couple of those last year, and it’s why we have to be on point on every snap.”
It’s why, Linderbaum said, there has been discussion of how the Hawkeyes started last year, if only as a reminder to be as sharp as possible right away.
“The goal was just to clean things up, in practice and in the offseason,” Linderbaum said.
Indiana went 6-2 last season, 6-1 in the Big Ten. Iowa State won the Big 12 regular-season title, going 8-1 in conference play and 9-3 overall.
Iowa has won seven of its last eight games against Indiana, including a three-game winning streak. The Hawkeyes have won six of the last seven against Iowa State, including the last five.
The Hawkeyes and Hoosiers are meeting as ranked teams for only the second time in series history. Iowa was No. 10 and Indiana was No. 25 in the 1991 game, won by the Hawkeyes, 38-21.
“Your schedule is your schedule — you play what’s in front of you. But the fact is we’re playing a really good football team,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I think there’s no downside to it. And we all knew this back in January that we were playing a good football team to open up the season.”
This will be the first time since 1980 that Iowa has opened against a Big Ten opponent. The Hawkeyes typically start off with a game against a Group of Five or FCS program.
“It’s unique in that it’s different than years past,” Petras said. “But yeah, I like it.”
Ferentz said he hopes his players always operate with a sense of urgency regardless of the opponent.
“I think the reality is we all realize there’s not a lot of wiggle room this week,” he said. “And we’ve known that starting with spring practice back at the end of March. So we’ll find out.”

Iowa Sports

Cyclones focus on better start to the season

The Associated Press
AMES — For all the energy Matt Campbell has brought to Iowa State, the Cyclones have been notoriously slow starters his first five years.
Northern Iowa from the FCS ranks is the opening opponent at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames on Saturday, and a sharp performance will be expected from a No. 7 Cyclones team with its highest preseason ranking in program history.
“I’m really excited to play because I’ve always said the bright lights will tell you where you’re at,” Campbell said. “There’s been times where we’ve been ready for the early start of the season and maybe there’s times where we thought we were ready, but maybe we weren’t.”
Iowa State is 2-3 in openers under Campbell. The Cyclones lost to UNI in 2016, defeated the Panthers in 2017 and needed three overtimes to beat them in 2019.
They lost to Iowa in 2018 after their scheduled opener against FCS South Dakota State was canceled because of inclement weather. Last year, they lost 31-14 to Louisiana-Lafayette of the Sun Belt Conference, giving up long kick and punt returns for touchdowns.
UNI has been a traditional power in the Football Championship Subdivision. The Panthers and the rest of the Missouri Valley Conference played a spring season because of the pandemic and went 3-4 — a misnomer, Campbell said, because of the circumstances.
Their offense struggled, with quarterback Will McElvain missing two games with COVID-19, but their defense was among the best in the FCS.
“I’m excited for Saturday because I think it’s a great challenge,” Campbell said. “They’re going to demand that you be at your best and, if you’re not, they’ll be ready to beat you.”
The Panthers have beaten Iowa State three times since 2007, and they return all 22 starters from the spring.
“It doesn’t matter what division you are, you go out there and you snap the ball and have to fight for every inch and every yard,” Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy said. “UNI is that team as far as being tough and disciplined. They’re well-coached. We’re going out this Saturday like, hey, they’re going to give it their all and we have to give it our all.”
UNI coach Mark Farley said the Cyclones’ record speaks for itself, but there’s an intangible that’s made them even more dangerous.
“What’s different about them from past years is that they’re confident,” he said. “They’re very confident and disciplined, and that can make teams great.”
Campbell said he doesn’t look at a game against UNI as a nothing-to-gain proposition. Many of the players know each other, and there are bragging rights at stake.
“You want to play games where, man, it means something and there’s something on the line,” Campbell said. “When when you have such a rivalry that comes with these state games, it forces that focus that you actually get in conference play. It makes you be your best from the beginning of the season because you’re going to get their best shot.”

Iowa Sports

Cyclones target elite status

The Associated Press
AMES — Iowa State’s coaches and players didn’t listen to prognosticators when they were picked near the bottom of the Big 12, and they sure aren’t going to start now that they’re picked near the top.
“If we ever worried about what everybody said about Iowa State football,” coach Matt Campbell said, “we would have never got off the ground.”
Campbell’s seventh-ranked Cyclones are up and running quite nicely heading into his sixth year. They made it to the Big 12 championship game in 2020, and that’s the minimum expectation for 2021.
The program that hasn’t won a conference championship since 1912 is at its highest point of the modern era and brings back 10 starters on offense and nine on defense from a team that went 9-3.
The Cyclones beat Oklahoma in Ames for the first time since 1960 and defeated Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl, yet their loss to the Sooners in the Big 12 championship game continues to drive them.
Staying humble is not difficult, especially with Campbell in charge.
“The reality of who we are isn’t very different than where we were four or five years ago other than the fact, from my standpoint, it’s not going to get any easier,” Campbell said.
Iowa State doesn’t attract many four- and five-star recruits, Campbell said, so the program’s emphasis always will be on player development.
“What allows Iowa State to win and be successful isn’t the same as for School A, B and C that maybe we compete against,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing: know who we are, stay close to who we are and then continue to find the best way to be the best version of ourselves.”
All but three returning starters are juniors or seniors. Running back Breece Hall and linebacker Mike Rose were Big 12 offensive and defensive players of the year, respectively, and quarterback Brock Purdy was among seven other all-conference first-team picks. Eight Iowa State players are on the preseason All-Big 12 team.
Offensive lineman Derek Schwiegert reacts to the hype with a figurative shrug.
“You’ve only got 12 guaranteed games,” he said, “and you start feeling good about yourselves, one day you’re humbled very fast.”

The Cyclones will be going for a fifth straight winning season. The program hasn’t strung together so many in a row since it was above .500 eight straight years from 1902-09.

Hall’s 1,572 rushing yards and nine games with at least 100 yards led the nation, and his 21 rushing touchdowns were second behind the 26 by Alabama’s Najee Harris. Hall forced 68 missed tackles on his 279 carries, tied for third, according to Pro Football Focus.

The Cyclones allowed a total of 16 points over the second halves of their last five games.
“A lot of people would ask us, ‘Man, what were your second-half adjustments?’ Honestly, nothing,” safety Greg Eisworth said. “It seemed like the second half we decided to do what we’re capable of doing. It’s almost like a kryptonite thing: ‘Why does it take us until halftime to play our type of game?’ So that’s something we’ve been trying to work on.”

Iowa State announced this week that season ticket sales surpassed 48,000 for the first time, and the Sept. 11 home game is sold out.
“Our goal is to sell out as many games (as possible) this season to show the nation we have the best fans in college football,” athletic director Jamie Pollard said.

The Sept. 4 opener against Northern Iowa is a warmup for the highly anticipated meeting with Iowa in Ames the next weekend. The Cyclones have lost five straight in the Cy-Hawk series. Iowa State gets Oklahoma State and Texas at home and Oklahoma on the road Nov. 20.