AMES, Ia. — Iowa State’s season-opener against Northern Iowa was closer than any fan probably hoped it would be.
But, let’s be honest, you can’t be that shocked.
The eighth-ranked Cyclones started the most anticipated season in school history with a 16-10 victory over in-state rival Northern Iowa at Jack Trice Stadium Saturday.
Iowa State, notorious for its slow starts to the season and close games with UNI, found itself in another big battle Saturday.
Here’s how it unfolded in real time.
8 p.m. – Final notes
Here are a few notes from Iowa State’s win.
- Breece Hall now has a school-record rushing touchdown in 13-straight games.
- Brock Purdy is 24-11 as Iowa State’s starting quarterback, the most wins in school history by a quarterback.
- Jake Hummel played in his 51st career game, tying for second all-time in school history.
- Connor Assalley moved to second on Iowa State’s career scoring list with 271 points.
7:56 p.m. – UNI wasn’t intimated by Iowa State
There are a ton of expectations surrounding the Iowa State football team. The Cyclones are not only a top-10 team that many pundits have picked to possibly make the College Football Playoffs, but they’re also expected to be right in the thick of things for a Big 12 title. None of it worried Farley.
“We need to win this game,” the Panthers’ head coach said postgame. “We battle every time we come down. We battle these guys. It doesn’t matter, rankings and percentages. We came here to win a football game and we didn’t make the last two drives. So we’ve got to go back and find ways to win these games in those situations.”
7:53 p.m. – Farley praises UNI defense
The defense certainly kept the Panthers in the game. Iowa State star running back Breece Hall was limited to just 69 yards on the ground. Even Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy wasn’t at his best.
The most impressive number: One.
That’s how many touchdowns the Cyclones tallied.
“They did what I expected them to do,” Farley said of his defense. “I don’t think that was luck. That was players playing disciplined.”
7:48 p.m. – This wasn’t a moral victory for UNI
It certainly wasn’t in the eyes of Farley. His teams have always given Iowa State trouble and the Panthers have even come and won in Ames before. They expected to again Saturday and Farley, despite the close call, was not happy with the final result.
“It’s not that it was a good job, good game because they’re a good opponent,” he said. “Nah. They’re a football team that we should have beat today and that’s what I want to make sure the message our football team hears (is), and that’s how they have to play every week.”
7:41 p.m. – An update on Sean Shaw Jr.
The Iowa State wide receiver missed Saturday’s game with an injury.
And from the sounds of it, it likely won’t be the only game.
“Probably a couple of weeks away,” Matt Campbell said postgame. “Sean had offseason surgery. I think he’s probably closer than not. I would say still probably not ready to go next week, but I would say after that we’re probably getting a little bit closer.”
7:37 p.m. – Jack Trice welcomes back a packed house
Jack Trice Stadium was full for the first time in two years with 61,500 fans in attendance for Saturday’s game.
Campbell: “It was great to be able to have that energy in the stadium.”
7:33 p.m. – Campbell with praise for UNI quarterback Will McElvain
McElvain was impressive, completing 21 of 34 passes for 230 yards and one touchdown. McElvain was also picked off twice but continually kept UNI in the game. Campbell even said he’s a “Will McElvain fan.”
“I told him afterwards, ‘Go win a championship,'” Campbell said. “He’s got that kind of moxie about him that he’s always going to put his team in a position to make a big play just because he’s allusive.”
7:30 p.m. – Campbell says Kolar was “really close to being able to play.”
The Cyclones were without All-American tight end Charlie Kolar. Kolar suited up and went through warmups but ultimately did not play.
Campbell: “My hope is he’ll be back. I think we felt like he was probably close to playing today. He tweaked his ankle a couple of weeks ago and has been really relentless on trying to be able to play. I think we’re probably really close to being able to play. And he just wasn’t ready yet.”
7:24 p.m. – Campbell gives update on O’Rien Vance
The Iowa State linebacker left the game with an injury. But Campbell gave a positive prognosis after the game. Campbell: “I think (he will be OK). It was a little bit of a hamstring deal.”
POSTGAME: Matt Campbell’s praises his team and UNI
Iowa State coach Matt Campbell: “Hard fought win for us. I’m really proud of our kids. I certainly give a lot of credit to UNI and their kids.”
FINAL: Iowa State 16, Northern Iowa 10
The Cyclones held on to topple the Panthers, 16-10. Now, Iowa State sets its sights on Iowa and the 2021 Cy-Hawk contest. The game is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. CT on Saturday, Sept. 11.
Meanwhile, Northern Iowa will face Sacramento State in California on Sept. 11 at 8 p.m.
2:05/4Q: Datrone Young with the big play
The Iowa State defensive back grabbed an intereception off a wildy errant pass from Northern Iowa quarterback Will McElvain that will likely end the game.
4:20/4Q: Here comes UNI
The Panthers just converted on fourth-and-1 from their own 34-yard line to keep the game (likely) going.
6:18/4Q: Iowa State 16, UNI 10
Matt Campbell, no shocker, decided to kick it. Connor Assalley’s 21-yard field goal was good giving the Cyclones a 16-10 lead. UNI will have just over six minutes to try to reach the end zone for only the second time today.
6:12/4Q: Big play coming up
Iowa State facing a fourth-and-4 from the UNI 4-yard line. UNI decides to take a timeout. The question is: What will Iowa State do? Matt Campbell is notoriously conservative. But….a the rate things are going for UNI on offense, an Iowa State touchdown probably ends the game.
11:38/4Q: UNI’s offense is struggling…a lot
Nothing has come easy for the UNI offense so far today. But the second half has been especially difficult for the Panthers who have mustered together just 65 yards of total offense late in the game. That’ll make Iowa State’s upcoming series even more important for the Panther defense. Another score by the Cyclones may be too much for UNI’s offense to claw back from.
End of the 3rd quarter: Iowa State 13, Northern Iowa 10
Iowa State’s latest drive had some promise. But back-to-back penalties have put the Cyclones in a bit of a bind. They’ll be facing a third-and-21 when play resumes in the fourth quarter. Did anyone think it would be this close?
2:36/3Q – Northern Iowa’s gamble backfires
Panthers coach Mark Farley decided to go for it fourth-and-4 from the Iowa State 42-yard line. Not a bad call given the scenario for the Panthers who are on the road against a Top 10 team. But the decision backfired as Will McElvain was a picked off by Isheem Young. Young may have actually given up some costly field position by picking off the pass instead of knocking it down to the ground. Something to keep an eye on: Iowa State linebacker O’Rien Vance was injured on the play.
4:20/3Q- Will McElvain leading a big drive
The UNI quarterback has quietly put together a good game. He’s 11-for-16 for 140 yards and one touchdown today. McElvain is leading a Northern Iowa drive that just moved into Iowa State territory.
7:23/3Q – Tough spot leads to a punt
Iowa State coach Matt Campbell and many of the fans here thought officials gave the Cyclones a bad spot after a fumble by Jaylin Noel. Noel, who hauled in a pass from Brock Purdy, lost the football which officials ruled came out before the first down marker. It ended up being a yard short forcing Iowa State to punt.
9:50/3Q – Iowa State 13, UNI 10
A pair of uninspiring drives by Northern Iowa and Iowa State star the second half. The two teams start the second half the same way they began the first half. Besides a couple of borken plays, Northern Iowa’s offense has really had trouble getting anyting going offensively.
HALFTIME: Inside Iowa State’s numbers
Some key stats: Passing: Brock Purdy 13-17-105-0. Rushing: Breece Hall: 11-51. Receiving: Xavier Hutchinson: 7-88 (25 yards after catch).
HALFTIME – Inside Northern Iowa’s numbers
Some key stats: Panthers are just 2-for-6 on third down. Passing: Will McElvain 8-10-117-1 (TD). Rushing: Dom Williams: 5-28. Receiving: Quan Hampton: 5-75.
HALFTIME – Iowa State 13, Northern Iowa 10
Andrew Mevis came to the rescue at the end of the second quarter by booting a 40-yard field goal as time expired to give Iowa State a 13-10 lead at halftime. Iowa State’s offense, which struggled to get going early in the game, finally got some momentum with its final three possessions. A couple of big plays by the Panthers have kept Northern Iowa’s offense in it.
1:00/2Q – Brock Purdy etches his name in the record books
Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy has already solidified himself as one of the best quarterbacks in school history. He made another case with another big achievement Saturday.
2:35/2Q – Northern Iowa ties the game 10-10
The Panthers followed up Iowa State’s impressive drive with a nice one of their own. It was a 10-play, 51-yard drive that ended with a 41-yard field goal by Matthew Cook to tie the game 10-10. Third down has been a little bit of an issue for the Panthers, who are just 2-for-6.
7:25/2Q – Iowa State reaches the end zone for the first time with impressive drive
That was a picture perfect Iowa State drive. It was long, methodical, time-consuming and productive. The Cyclones used 14 plays to travel 59 yards in 7:19. It’s the second straight productive drive for Iowa State. But this one ends in the end zone, with Breece Hall scoring a 2-yard rushing touchdown.
10:54/2Q – Iowa State marching
The Cyclones are putting together their best drive of the game. It’s a very methodical and time consuming one as well. They’ve marched down to the UNI 32-yard line.
15:00/2Q – Iowa State wide receiver out for the game
Iowa State wide receiver Sean Shaw Jr. is out with an upper body injury according to an Iowa State spokesperson. Shaw had 21 catches for 212 yards and one touchdown last season.
End of the 1Q – Northern Iowa 7, Iowa State 3
After a sluggish start on offense for both teams, the two have finally gotten some life. Northern Will McElvain is 6-for-6 passing for 95 yards and one touchdown. Brock Purdy is 6-7 for 46 yards.
1:06/1Q – Northern Iowa 7, Iowa State 3
Finally, some life to the Iowa State offense. The Cyclones struggled in their first two series producing -1 yards of offense two a pair of three and outs to start the game. Drive No. 3 was much better. The Cyclones used six plays to span 57 yards. The highlight: A diving catch by Xavier Hutchinson. It still didn’t end like the Cyclones would have liked, though. The drive stalled out and Iowa State settled for a 35-yard field goal by Connor Assalley.
4:09/1Q – Northern Iowa Strikes first
The Panthers reach the end zone for the first time this season with Quan Hampton taking a quick pass from McElvain and then shaking off a couple of tackles for the 52-yard touchdown. That was an impressive drive by the Panthers who were able to keep it alive thanks to the big third down conversion by McElvain.
5:20/1Q – What a play by Will McElvain
The Northern Iowa quarterback was facing a tough third-and-11 in Northern Iowa’s own territory. But after getting flushed out of the pocket, McElvain narrowly avoided a sack before tossing a quick pass that resulted in a 37-yard gain and a first down for the Panthers. It’s the only real offense we’ve seen so far today.
8:06/1Q – Punter Corey Dunn looks sharp at least
Iowa State’s second series didn’t go much better. Tarique Milton couldn’t find the open field after catching a Brock Purdy pass and slipping. A hold on third down also hurt Iowa State’s first drive. The good news: Punter Corey Dunn looks good. He just booted a 57-yard punt to pin Northern Iowa deep in its own territory.
9:50/1Q – Another quick series for Northern Iowa
The Panthers open the game with back-to-back three and outs on offense. They’ve produced -13 yards of total offense through their first two series today. UNI quarterback Will McElvain hasn’t gotten much help from his offensive line so far, though. Iowa State linebacker ended the second drive with a sack on third down.
11:30/1Q – Charlie Kolar didn’t play the first series
The most important part of that opening drive by Iowa State was that Charlie Kolar didn’t play. Kolar, who was ruled out by an Iowa State spokesperson before the game, ended up suiting up for the game and going through pregame warmups leaving his status for the game up in there
11:40/1Q – Iowa State’s opening series on offense produces…nothing
The first offensive series for Iowa State was not…great. The Cyclones went three and out as well. The series included a fumble, which was recovered by the Cyclones and an overshot pass by Brock Purdy to Xavier Hutchinson. The fumble seemed a little questionable and looked more like a dropped pass. But it didn’t matter. Iowa State punted it away.
13:00/1Q – A strong start on defense for Iowa State
Northern Iowa’s offense was greeted by the Iowa State defense with a quick series. The Panthers went three and out on their opening possession and produced -10 yards of total offense to start the game.
14:55/1Q – Kickoff
Andrew Melvin opening kick slides across the field and is retrieve by Northern Iowa. Special teams star Rory Walling comes up with a stop at the 20-yard line.
3:34 p.m. – It’s go time
Both teams have taken the field and captains are meeting at the 50-yard line. We’re finally moments away.
3:30 p.m. – The pregame weather report
It’s a picture perfect day in Ames. The two teams couldn’t ask for better weather conditions either. It’s 73 degrees with winds out of the North at 5 to 10 miles per hour.
3:11 p.m.- The first team offensive line is…
Iowa State’s first team in warmups is, from left to right: Sean Foster, Trevor Downing, Colin Newell, Darrell Simmons Jr., and Derek Schweiger.
3:04 p.m. – Xavier Hutchinson wins kickoff return job
Wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson appears to have won one of the biggest battles that was still up in the air. Hutchinson will try to fill the void of Kene Nwangwu who handled the kickoff return duties for Iowa State last season. Nwangwu was a star in the role and provided a big boost for the Cyclones on special teams before being drafted by the Minnesota Vikings.
2:51 p.m. – Charlie Kolar going through warmups
Stop the presses! Iowa State tight end Charlie Kolar could be playing after all. Kolar is in uniform and is going through pre-game warmups while wearing a giant ankle brace. An Iowa State spokesperson previously told The Register that Kolar was expected to miss Saturday’s game with a lower leg injury. But it appears that Kolar may be giving it a shot.
2:25 p.m. – Charlie Kolar’s injury could present an opportunity for Easton Dean
Tight end Charlie Kolar’s injury could provide a chance for former quarterback Easton Dean to get significant playing time. Dean, listed third on Iowa State’s depth chart behind Kolar and Chase Allen, appeared in all 12 games last season but played primarily on special teams. He did haul in a 25-yard reception against Kansas. Travis Hines also has more on Kolar’s injury and what it means for today.
2:18 p.m. – Tight end Charlie Kolar expected to miss Saturday’s game
Cyclones tight end Charlie Kolar is expected to miss his second-straight season opener with an injury. Kolar is out for Saturday’s game with what an Iowa State spokesperson called a “lower body injury.” It’s a big blow for Iowa State’s offense. Kolar, a preseason All-American, caught 44 passes for 591 yards and seven touchdowns last season.
Tommy Birch, the Register’s sports enterprise and features reporter, has been working at the newspaper since 2008. He’s the 2018 and 2020 Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Reach him at email@example.com or 515-284-8468. Follow him on Twitter @TommyBirch.