N. Iowa 28, Iowa St. 14
AMES, Iowa (AP) _ Senior Brett O’Donnell passed for two touchdowns and set up another in his first start as Northern Iowa repeated its 1992 upset of Iowa State with a 28-14 season-opening victory Saturday.
The Division I-AA Panthers scored in the final minute of the first half for a 14-0 lead, then drove 80 yards at the start of the second half to go up 21-0. That was too much for Iowa State’s run-oriented, triple-option offense to overcome.
Northern Iowa, ranked eighth nationally in its division, beat Iowa State 27-10 two years ago. That was just the Panthers’ second victory over Iowa State and first since 1900. They didn’t have to wait nearly as long for No. 3.
O’Donnell, who had played extensively in only one game prior to Saturday, looked nothing like a beginner. He completed nine of 10 passes in the first quarter and finished 14-of-18 for 185 yards, including touchdown throws of 7 yards to Lincoln Sharar and 21 yards to Jake Kothe.
Kothe’s touchdown came with 27 seconds left in the first half and capped a 31-second, 49-yard drive set up by Dedric Ward’s 28-yard punt return. O’Donnell then drove the Panthers the length of the field in seven plays after the second-half kickoff.
The big one was a 41-yard completion to Ward, who outjumped cornerback Daryl Hall to make a leaping catch at the Iowa State 3. Jeff Stovall dove in from the 1 three plays later.
Iowa State, which had won six straight openers, had a chance to get back into the game over the next few minutes, but came away only with field goals of 43 and 40 yards by Ty Stewart.
The first came after an 8-yard loss on a bad pitchout by quarterback Todd Doxzon ruined a drive that had taken Iowa State to the Northern Iowa 18. Stovall fumbled on the next play and Sheldon Napastuk recovered for Iowa State at the Panthers 17.
But the Cyclones lost 6 yards in three plays and had to call on Stewart again. Stewart then recovered his onside kick at midfield, but Jason McCleary intercepted Doxzon’s pass four plays later to end that threat.
Helped by O’Donnell’s 18-yard pass to Sharar and a roughing-the-passer penalty against Nick Clausen, Northern Iowa marched 61 yards in six plays to make it 28-6, Stovall scoring on a 5-yard run with 2:43 left in the third quarter.
Doxzon scored Iowa State’s only touchdown on a 4-yard run with 3:30 left.