Instant analysis: After offseason of hype, No. 8 Iowa State football looks flat vs. Northern Iowa

Travis Hines
Des Moines Register

AMES, Ia. — The anticipation built all summer for the unveiling of the first preseason top-10 Iowa State football team in history. 

The Cyclones took the field Saturday in the season-opener, but that top-10 team certainly didn't make an appearance.

Eighth-ranked Iowa State looked wholly mediocre against Northern Iowa of the FCS, but emerged from Jack Trice Stadium with a 1-0 record after beating the Panthers, 16-10.

It was yet another early-season malaise under sixth-year coach Matt Campbell, who is 8-11 in August and September games at Iowa State. The Cyclones lost their season-openers in 2020 and 2016, and they needed three overtimes to beat UNI in 2019.

They haven't had a no-drama opener since crushing the Panthers, 42-24, in 2017.

UNI took the first lead of the game when Quan Hampton broke a tackle in the middle of the field and raced 52 yards for a touchdown with just over 4 minutes left in the first quarter.

A touchdown from Breece Hall and a pair of field goals put Iowa State up, 13-10, heading into halftime. 

More:Iowa State football vs. Northern Iowa recap: Cyclones hold on for 16-10 win vs. Panthers

The Cyclones had a chance to put the game all but out of reach with 6 minutes to play, but their drive stalled out at the 4-yard line. Campbell opted for a field goal rather than going for it, and Connor Assalley's 21-yarder put Iowa State up six.

Iowa State was able to all but end the game on the ensuing possession when Datrone Young picked off UNI quarterback Will McElvain. UNI got the ball back with a minute left deep in its own territory, but couldn't threaten to score as the clock hit zero.

Iowa State's offense clearly missed the services of All-American tight end Charlie Kolar, who missed his second consecutive season-opener due to injury.

The Cyclones' offense was efficient, but not especially productive. Quarterback Brock Purdy was 21 of 26 for 199 yards. Hall, who enters the season as a Heisman Trophy candidate, had just 69 yards on 23 carries.

UNI's offense was stifled by the Cyclone defense, amassing just 275 total yards and turning it over twice.

The Cyclones will need to elevate their level of play immediately as they'll welcome in No. 18 Iowa for the annual Cy-Hawk game next week. The Hawkeyes demolished No. 17 Indiana, 34-6, on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.

Campbell is 0-4 against the Hawkeyes, and Iowa State hasn't won the rivalry game since 2014. The game was not played last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Travis Hines covers Iowa State University sports for the Des Moines Register and Ames Tribune. Contact him at thines@amestrib.com or  (515) 284-8000. Follow him at @TravisHines21.