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Cyclones Survive UNI, 29-26

A little closer than we’d hoped.

NCAA Football: Northern Iowa at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Today marked the first day of the 2019 season for Iowa State as they hosted in-state rival Northern Iowa for the third showdown between Matt Campbell and the Panthers.

The Cyclones got off to an incredibly slow start. The Cyclone Slayer, Mark Farley has beat the Cyclones three times in his career at UNI. The 21st ranking for the Cyclones didn’t do much to intimidate the Panthers who were looking to play spoiler all day.

Anytime the Cyclones would get things rolling on offense it would be quickly derailed. Michael Oher’s critically acclaimed movie “The Blindside” got a name drop early in the first half by the refs which cost the Cyclones 15 yards on an unprecedented ‘blindside block’ which would halt their first drive.

Julian Good-Jones struggled to keep the blindside quiet as Brock Purdy was scrambling consistently out of the pocket. Tim Butcher was chopping, hacking and slicing his way into the Cyclone backfield for the better part of the first half.

The Cyclones made a redzone appearance with time running out in the first quarter. Brock Purdy started the drive with three passes, three completions, to three different receivers. The Cyclones got up to the UNI 14 when the first down run was called back for a penalty.

The Cyclone O-Line was able to push Johnnie Lang deep into UNI territory and Josh Knipfel didn’t even need a helmet. But as the saying goes, ‘play until your helmet falls off and then sit cross legged on the field until the play is blown dead’.

Connor Assalley, phrasing, was able to kick a 42 yard field goal straight down the chute and gave the Cyclones a 3-0 lead heading into the second quarter.

The Iowa State defense shined in the first half pitching a shutout, and gave UNI a 4th and 30 at the beginning of the second quarter. Big plays were non-existent, and UNI star tight end Briley Moore was limited to 16 yards in the first half.

The only weak spot in the defense seemed to be Rice transfer, and surprise starter, Justin Bickham who missed two tackles in consecutive plays that ended in extra yardage for the Panthers.

Coach Matt Campbell was reluctant to go for it on 4th down when a couple of Iowa State drives that found themselves come to a halt in no man’s land. Campbell gambled for it on 4th and 2 that ended in an incomplete rollout pass with Chase Allen as the intended receiver.

UNI had the ball in comfortable field position heading towards half time, but the Iowa State defense would come up big once again. UNI quarterback, Will McElvian, was pressured and ruling on the field was a fumble, Iowa State ball. A short review showed that it was in fact an incomplete pass.

Campbell decided to take the 3-0 lead going into half time. Lang would run the clock out with two timeouts still available for the Cyclones.

Speaking of sloppy starts, the second half would start with a free kick out of bounds penalty that jump started a UNI drive. The Panthers would capitalize tying the game up with a 50 yard field goal, tying the game 3-3 only two minutes into the second half.

Iowa State would finally get things going in the third quarter after some good half-time adjustment. The drive came with a mixed backfield of Nwangwu, Lang and Hall that drove right down the field. A dump off pass to Deshaunte Jones set up first and goal for Purdy and company.

Corn Jesus would get his first touchdown of the year to senior wideout La’Michael Pettway in a seven yard completion that gave the Cyclones the lead once again 10-3.

The Panthers wouldn’t take long to answer driving 75 yards down the field behind the arm and feet of McElvain. Matthew Cook would get his second field goal of the game, this time from 31 yards.

Then shit hit the fan.

Iowa State would pass midfield, Purdy’s pass was tipped on third down resulting in a near interception. Apparently, Iowa State was granted exactly one call as the next play would shift the entire mood of Jack Trice Stadium. What seemed to be a routine incomplete pass, was scooped up and taken back for a 53 yard fumble recovery.

The extra point team was almost able to get a kick off before the refs would take another look at it. The call on the field stood which prompted some ‘bullshit’ chants from the Cyclone faithful. 13-10 Panthers.

Purdy would take the field looking to make up for the turnover. Iowa State would drive deep into Panther territory. After running on 3rd and 6, they would come up short, setting up a thirty yard field goal.

Wide left.

The Panthers would take over on downs, but the defense would once again answer the call. The Panthers would be forced to punt after a three and out.

With seven minutes left, the Cyclones found themselves down 3. Deshaunte Jones would takeover the drive with an incredible one hand catch to extend the drive. Jones would pass 100 receiving yards on the day.

Brock Purdy found himself with the fourth quarter winding down, a 3rd and 7 drop back pass. In a Seneca-esque sprint towards the end zone, Purdy passed the goal line in a diving effort. Only problem was, 15 yards behind him a penalty flag had been thrown. Holding on the offense cut the celebration short. Assalley would nail the 23 yard field goal, making up for a prior miss.

The Panthers would settle for overtime and run out the clock.

Iowa State won the all important coin toss to put their stout defense on the field first. O’Rien Vance came up with a huge sack that pushed the Panthers just to the edge of field goal territory. Matthew Cook nailed the 49 yard kick.

Sheldon Croney Jr. would come alive in overtime being the goto running back for the Cyclones past regulation. He would get the Cyclones within striking distance, but once again came up short of the goal line. Assalley would make the tying field goal.

Double overtime.

Croney Jr. would have another big run to start the second overtime that put the Cyclones at the 11 yard line. Purdy would find his red zone target again, La’Michael Pettway, on nearly the exact same route as their first touchdown.

The stage was set for the upstart redshirt freshman QB out of Lincoln High, and McElvain looked pre-built for this moment. After what looked to be a touchdown pass to UNI wideout Deion McShane, upon further review, his knee was down at about the four yard line before jumping into the end zone. However, the Panthers converted on 4th and 4 prolonging the game.

The next play, McElvain would be sent rolling around the pocket in circles before miraculously finding his target wide open in the corner of the end zone. Trevor Allen had tied the game with a catch that was very, very, very low to the ground.

Triple overtime.

UNI’s achilles heel all game was the run game. David Johnson is long gone, and UNI only averaged 1.1 yards per carry. This was undoubtedly one of Iowa State’s best aspects of today’s game, allowing 34 yards on 31 attempts.

After an incompletion in the end zone, the reliable Matthew Cook would hit his fourth and final field goal of the day.

Purdy would start the drive with a ‘hold your breath’ shovel pass as UNI was all over it. Croney Jr. would bust up the Panthers again getting inches to the goal line…


The football bounced to the left of the pile and was rolling in no man’s land. Agonizing second after second the football stayed on the field untouched… until Brock FREAKING Purdy full on dived, head first, out of nowhere, and found himself on the bottom of the pile.

“I saw who was at the bottom of the pile so I knew who would come out with it” said head coach Matt Campbell after the game.

Purdy’s leadership and reckless abandon would give Croney Jr., the breakout star of over time, a second chance which he would capitalize on the very next play. Run up the gut, touchdown. Cyclones win.

First games never come easy, especially against in state teams who have played and won against us at Jack Trice. Campbell and company would avoid catastrophe on game one, and will most certainly take advantage of the upcoming BYE week.

The ugly game had its bright spots though. The run defense was impenetrable past the line of scrimmage. The linebacker core made plays all over the field. Deshaunte Jones had 14 targets for 126 yards. Senior wideout La’Michael Pettway had only three catches but two of them came in the endzone. And Sheldon Croney Jr. definitely looked comfortable in the big time moments.

However, this was ugly and Iowa State will need all of this extra week for preparation and clarity against that team out east come September 14th.