The beginning of what many expect will be a breakthrough season for Iowa State did not go as planned.
The 21st-ranked Cyclones were brought to the brink of a massive upset by Northern Iowa, an FCS program. Instead, Iowa State, ranked in the preseason AP poll for the first time since 1978, prevailed 29-26 in triple overtime and avoided disaster.
Iowa State’s offense couldn’t muster much of anything all afternoon. The Cyclones led just 3-0 at halftime and maintained just a 10-6 edge late in the third quarter. That’s when Northern Iowa, a team that went 7-6 in 2018, made a big play.
Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy was hit by Elerson Smith, causing the ball to fly into the air. The fumble was then scooped up by Xavior Williams and returned 53-yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
🚨UPSET ALERT 🚨— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) August 31, 2019
Northern Iowa (FCS) has the lead in the 3rd quarter on the road against No. 21 Iowa State after this big defensive score. pic.twitter.com/m3GLIReOQH
All of a sudden, the Cyclones were in big trouble. And when the usually reliable Connor Assalley missed a 31-yard field goal that would have tied the game, things got even dicier.
But Assalley would redeem himself by sending the game to overtime with a 23-yard chip shot in the final minute.
Once overtime began, things got wacky. The teams traded field goals in the first overtime and Iowa State took a 23-16 lead to open the second extra frame. That’s when freshman Northern Iowa quarterback Will McElvain used his improvisational skills for two stellar plays.
First, on fourth-and-3 from the ISU 18, McElvain scrambled around for seemingly 10 seconds before finding Deion McShane for what appeared to be a touchdown. However, McShane’s knee was ruled down at the 6-yard line. Still, it was enough for a first down.
Three plays later, McElvain pulled out more acrobatics, avoiding the Cyclones pass rush for long enough to find Trevor Allen alone in the end zone for a score that sent the game to triple-overtime.
Will McElvain is a magician!— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) August 31, 2019
Northern Iowa refuses to go away against Iowa State as they look to stun the Cyclones. pic.twitter.com/ab2hVZCqZD
But in the third overtime, Iowa State finally prevailed — only after an epic hustle play from Purdy.
After Northern Iowa took a 26-23 lead with a field goal, the Cyclones were nearing the goal line with a victory in their sights.
On third-and-1 from the UNI 2-yard line, ISU running back Sheldon Croney took a handoff and fumbled. A fumble recovery would have given Northern Iowa a victory, but Purdy came crashing in out of nowhere to pounce on the loose ball at the 1-yard line, giving his team a first down.
On the very next play, Croney pounded it in from a yard out to finally give his team a victory and the Iowa State fan base a sigh of relief.
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