Cyclones Beat Northern Illinois 27-10 In Season Opener
AMES, Iowa- Iowa State jumped out to an early lead and made a pair of instrumental fourth-quarter scores to post a 27-10 win over Northern Illinois in the season-opener Thursday night in Jack Trice Stadium.
Iowa State (1-0) was led by its senior stars Austen Arnaud and Alexander Robinson, as Arnaud threw for 265 yards on 27-for-36 passing and Robinson rushed for 97 yards on 19 carries. The Cyclone defense made big plays throughout the game, holding a strong Huskie offense to just 249 yards of total offense. Redshirt freshman linebacker Jake Knott made an auspicious debut, registering nine tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble. Sophomore A.J. Klein, who was making his first start at linebacker, led all players with 15 tackles.
"That was an outstanding win against a very good football team," Iowa State head football coach Paul Rhoads said. "We are very fortunate to come out with a victory to start the season. We had too many foolish penalties and we did not tackle to the standards of an Iowa State football team, but we are thrilled to come out of this game with a victory over a very well coached team that played its tail off for 60 minutes."
The contest appeared to be a rout early on, as Iowa State raced out to a 17-0 lead midway through the second quarter. The Cyclones were sharp on offense, moving the ball swiftly and scoring on three of their first four possessions. Arnaud scored a touchdown on a two-yard keeper to get Iowa State on board first with 2:27 left in the first quarter.
The home team quickly struck again after Zac Sandvig picked off a Demarcus Grady pass. On the very next play, Robinson saw a gaping hole up the middle and rambled 63 yards to make it a 14-0 Cyclone lead with 14:43 left in the second quarter. It was the third-longest run of his career. Grant Mahoney capped off the first-half scoring with a 41-yard field goal, as The Cyclones went into the break with a 17-0 lead.
The Huskies exited the locker room with a chip on their shoulder, changing the tone of the game. NIU quickly got on the board with a field goal on its first possession of the second period to inch closer at 17-3.
The Cyclones continued to move the ball on their first drive of the second half, but the drive stalled when Arnaud was intercepted for the second time. NIU was appearing to score again until Knott came up with a key interception at the Cyclone 17-yard line to halt the Huskie scoring threat.
After a Cyclone drive stalled, NIU kept the pressure on with a 1-yard touchdown run by Grady to close the gap to 17-10 with 8:51 remaining in the game.
The Iowa State offense needed a big drive to shift the momentum and answered the call. The Cyclones countered the NIU touchdown with a 10-play, 73-yard touchdown drive culminating with a Robinson 5-yard run for his 20th rushing touchdown of his career. Arnaud hit tight end Collin Franklin on a 34-yard toss on a key play in the series to help push the Cyclone lead to 24-10.
Knott sealed the Cyclone victory with his second interception on NIU's next series. Mahoney tacked on three more points with 2:37 left in the contest on a 23-yard field goal.
"Jake's two interceptions were huge," Rhoads said. "He had a good number of tackles and he plays the game with passion. When we talk about Cyclone football in the locker room, that's what we're talking about. A guy that plays it all out, gives you everything he has, is in the right spot and creates plays with that kind of energy."
Iowa State tallied 403 yards of total offense behind 310 yards from the arms and legs of Arnaud. He now moves into second all-time on Iowa State's total offense list with 6,364 yards. Franklin caught five passes for 75 yards.
Iowa State travels to Iowa City next weekend to face Iowa. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m.