EditorsNote: 4th graf, change “an” to “on” before “offense”
Sheldon Croney Jr. scored on a 1-yard run in the third overtime as No. 21 Iowa State survived a season-opening upset scare with a 29-26 victory over visiting Northern Iowa on Saturday in Ames, Iowa.
Northern Iowa’s Matthew Cook converted his fourth field goal of the game, from 28 yards, to give the Panthers a 26-23 lead in the third overtime. Then, after Croney (13 carries, 56 yards) fumbled and Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy recovered for a first down, the senior running back broke the goal line on the next play.
Entering the season ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since 1978, Iowa State (1-0) did not have an easy time with a Northern Iowa program that’s ranked 20th in the FCS coaches poll and won at Ames in 2013 and 2016.
Deshaunte Jones had a career-high 14 catches for 126 yards for the Cyclones, who never found a clear rhythm on offense and allowed UNI (0-1) to convert 6 of 17 third downs.
Both teams swapped field goals in the first overtime, then Iowa State’s La’Michael Pettway hauled in a 9-yard strike from Purdy (30 of 41, 278 yards) in the second overtime. However, UNI redshirt freshman quarterback Will McElvain (25 of 42, 228 yards), who declined a walk-on spot at Iowa State, scrambled to find Trevor Allen for a 7-yard TD pass to ultimately force a third extra session.
After opening the third quarter with field goals of 50 and 31 yards, UNI took a 13-10 lead when Purdy had the ball knocked out of his hand by defensive lineman Elerson Smith. Panthers defensive back Xavior Williams picked up the ball and took it back 53 yards for a touchdown.
The Panthers then withstood an Iowa State surge when Connor Assalley missed left on a 31-yard field-goal attempt with 9:49 left in the game. Assalley bounced back, capping a 17-play drive with his 23-yard field goal to tie the game 13-13 with 59 seconds left.
Iowa State led 3-0 at the half on a 42-yard field goal from Assalley late in the first quarter. Purdy ended a nine-play, 75-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Pettway at the 8:31 mark of the third quarter to put the Cyclones up 10-3.
—Field Level Media