Cyclones win season opener, 44-17


Iowa State’s Rashawn Parker reaches for a loose ball on Thursday at Jack Trice Stadium. The Cyclones lead the Jackrabbits 20-0 at half time of the Season Opener. Photo: Josh Harrell/Iowa State Daily

Matt Gubbels

The ISU football team’s 44-17 win over South Dakota State on Thursday night at Jack Trice Stadium may not have been the prettiest victory but it was a victory nonetheless.

A crowd of 46,617 watched a somewhat ugly game that featured nine turnovers, including seven in the first half; and the victory came down to who was able to convert those turnovers into points. Iowa State was able to convert six Jackrabbit turnovers into 20 points, while South Dakota State could not convert on any of the three Cyclone turnovers.

“During two-a-days, the coaches have been stressing to get the ball out, and we did that tonight,” linebacker Jesse Smith said.

Coach Gene Chizik said the defense bailed the team out of some bad situations it was put into.

“A difference we saw from last year was we needed to force more turnovers and score points on defense,” Chizik said.

Five of those turnovers were interceptions, and they were returned for a school-record 202 return yards, with two of those interceptions and 108 of those yards coming from screen passes picked off by defensive lineman Kurtis Taylor and Austin Alburtis. That broke the previous record of 167 yards, which was set against UNI in 1945.

The Cyclone defense allowed only three points and 199 yards through three quarters and also contributed a score of its own on a 37-yard interception return by Derec Schmidgall.

The much ballyhooed quarterback battle between sophomores Austen Arnaud and Philip Bates became more clear. Arnaud played most of the game and went 8-of-11 for 98 yards and a touchdown, while Bates was 5-of-8 for 61 yards and a touchdown and ran for 55 yards.

The Cyclones took the ball to start the game and promptly drove 69 yards and scored on a 1-yard sneak by Arnaud. That drive was one of several that showcased a new no-huddle look on the offense.

Running back Alexander Robinson said the offense has been working on the no-huddle since spring practice and it adds a dimension to the offense.

“We get the chance to see what defenses are in and what is the best play that will work against it,” Robinson said. “When we start running the ball and running the ball well, that gets defenses tired, and if we can keep rolling like that, that will definitely help us execute on offense.”

Iowa State got the ball after a fumble on the Jackrabbit 20 but Alexander Robinson fumbled at the one and South Dakota State recovered. The Cyclones forced a punt but fumbled the ball on the return. Two plays later, Taylor intercepted a pass to set up a 35-yard Grant Mahoney field goal. Mahoney later connected on field goals from 36 and 30 yards and was perfect on extra points and handled all of the kicking duties for a good portion of the evening.

South Dakota State got on the board with a 12-play drive to start the second half but was only able to get three points as the Cyclone defense stiffened in the redzone. The Cyclones promptly answered, however, with a 11-play drive that ended with Arnaud throwing his first touchdown pass, a 18-yard pass to freshman receiver Darius Darks that extended the lead to 27-3.

Both Darks and fellow freshman Sedrick Johnson caught touchdown passes in their first collegiate game.

“You saw a little glimpse of what I think you are going to see down the road from them,” Chizik said.

Jason Harris closed out the Cyclone scoring in the fourth quarter with a spectacular 68-yard sprint to the endzone and gave Iowa State its biggest win since 2005. That run also gave the Cyclones a 388-350 advantage in total offense, with 229 yards of those yards coming on the ground.