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Iowa State Daily

Three Big Takeaways: Cooper leads Cyclones’ defense to huge day against UNI

Tyler Coe
Benjamin Brahmer and Tyler Moore celebrate a Brahmer touchdown in a 30-9 victory against UNI at Jack Trice Stadium on Sep. 2, 2023.

AMES — Iowa State hosted Northern Iowa Saturday to kick off the 2023 season in style with a 30-9 win over the Panthers.

Iowa State moved to 1-0, doing so in a big way in front of a large home crowd. The Cyclones’ win over UNI marks their 25th win in the rivalry.

Cooper’s memorable day leads the Cyclone defense to a big day

Sophomore defensive back Jeremiah Cooper had himself a day to remember by nabbing the first two interceptions of his career. He returned one of them for a touchdown during the Panthers’ first drive of the game.

“I probably was smiling,” Cooper said. “It was my first pick here, so it’s just something I’ll never forget; ever.”

Cooper’s hot start set the tone for this Cyclones defense as they kept the UNI offense in check throughout most of the game.

“I thought that play set the tone,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said.

Linebacker Caleb Bacon had himself a day as well. Bacon recorded two sacks against UNI quarterback Theo Day.

The Iowa State defense finished the game with five sacks, nine tackles for loss and seven pass breakups as the Cyclones showed how they will be a formidable force to be reckoned with throughout the season.

Offense shows promise but still leaves some room for doubt

Iowa State rolled into Saturday’s game with redshirt freshman quarterback Rocco Becht earning the starting quarterback role. With the offense struggling last season, the Cyclones looked to put up big numbers on the UNI defense to start the season off right.

“I just thought we played really good team football,” Campbell said. 

In the first half Iowa State got two touchdown passes, one of which came after a great punt return from wide receiver Jaylin Noel gave the Cyclones great field position.

The offense rolled into the second half strong by going down to score their final points of the game. Becht found true freshman tight end Benjamin Brahmer in the back of the end zone to bring the Cyclones total up to 30 points.

Becht finished his day going 10-13 for 113 yards with two touchdown passes, as he got the job done for a Cyclones win.

“I had this team, they had my back and I had theirs and they put their trust in me to come out and play today and I respect them for that,” Becht said.

Freshman quarterback JJ Kohl also got some action in the first collegiate game of his career, but it ended up not resulting in too much. He finished his day going 4-5 for 3 yards, while also rushing for 22 yards on three attempts.

Special teams played a part in Iowa State’s win

While the defense seemed to be the major factor in Saturday’s win for Iowa State, it was the special teams play that also provided a huge boost in the win.

Chase Contreraz started his first game as a Cyclone after transferring from Nebraska and converted every chance he got. He went one-for-one in field goal attempts with a 56-yard field goal to end the first half. 

The 56-yarder was the fifth-longest field goal in Cyclones history. Chase also put in all three extra points that he got his foot on. The only slip up of the day came from a bobbled snap during an extra-point attempt.

Punter Tyler Perkins continuously pinned UNI deep in its territory on his eight punts, with his longest being 70 yards. He was consistent throughout the game as he gave the defense a better chance to keep the Panthers’ backs against the wall.

Noel had some key punt returns for the Cyclones, one of which set up the offense well to capitalize on the great field position made.

Overall, Iowa State had some bright spots during the game, but there was also room for improvement.

“UNI is always a really good opponent, so I think for us to get a great evaluation of where we are to see that we are just starting to grow forward,” Campbell said.

The Cyclones now look to prepare for a big game on Sept. 9 as the Hawkeyes will travel to Ames to face off in the annual Cy-Hawk matchup.

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