Cyclones won’t make same mistake twice


Jonathan Krueger/Iowa State Daily

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Richardson gets trapped while trying to run the ball against Northern Iowa on Saturday, Aug. 31, at Jack Trice Stadium. The Cyclones were trapped themselves when they fell to the Panthers 20-28.

Ryan Young

When the ISU football take the field Saturday night against the University of Northern Iowa, they’re playing for more than just a victory.

They’re playing for redemption.

Last season, the Cyclones dropped their season-opener to Football Championship Subdivision powerhouse North Dakota State. The year before, they lost to Northern Iowa in similar fashion.

“Losing to a [D1-AA] school being in the Big 12, it just kills your motivation, kills your confidence,” said safety Kamari Cotton-Moya. “Some people come back from it, some people don’t. In the last two years, I don’t think we ever really came back from it.

“This is the year we can’t let it slip by, and I think the whole team knows that.”

Northern Iowa is ranked No. 10 in the FCS preseason poll and has a load of returning talent. 

And while some may immediately dismiss the Panthers simply because they aren’t a Football Bowl Subdivision team, ISU coach Paul Rhoads isn’t one of them.

“[They have an] outstanding team, as they always field,” Rhoads said. “Northern Iowa at the FCS level is a program that reloads like traditional football powers that get more notoriety at the FBS level. Northern Iowa is all of that at their level, and they’ve reloaded again with great talent across the board.”

Seniors Tim Kilfoy and Deiondre’ Hall, both NFL prospects, lead an experienced secondary for the Panthers. While the Cyclones’ passing attack is projected as the strongest it’s been in years, the Panthers should prove a hearty challenge for quarterback Sam Richardson and the wide receivers.

“They’ve got two outstanding corners, guys who are long, physical guys; they like to press people up,” said offensive coordinator Mark Mangino. “Our outside guys will be challenged this week with press coverage, so it’ll be a good challenge for our kids.”

There is some uncertainty on the other side of the ball, however. To date, the Panthers haven’t named a starting quarterback and are still deciding between four options. 

UNI coach Mark Farley might just wait until game time to make that decision.

“I think I know the direction it’s leaning towards, but it’s not a clear-enough picture where I could say what we’re going to do today,” Farley said Monday. “There’s things to be worked out this week, and we’ll make that decision — whether it’s right before game time or if there’s still things to work out.”

So how do you prepare for the possibility of multiple quarterbacks? For defensive coordinator Wally Burnham, the answer is simple.

“You don’t. You prepare for one,” Burnham said. “They’re going to run their offense, it doesn’t matter who is in there. Whatever the head coach and the offensive coordinator’s philosophy is, I’m sure they’ve married those two together. You can’t line up so many ways. It’s not brain surgery.”

In the end, though, Rhoads said it simply will come down to how his players handle the problems and tough situations that will undoubtedly arise.

Only time will tell if the message has sunk in. 

“We need to play better,” Rhoads said. “When adversity comes, which it will, we need to be able to handle it and respond to it … It’s one of the things that we’ve really challenged our football team with both on the field and off the field in preparation for this season, not just the first game.”