Gridiron: UNI Good Cop

Mike Randleman

Only two years have passed since a stunning ISU defeat by Northern Iowa, with the memories of the 28-20 loss still fresh in the minds of fans.

Once again in this weekend’s matchup, the FCS No. 10 Panthers look ready for the challenge after returning 13 starters from a playoff team that knocked off a fellow FCS antagonist of the Cyclones, North Dakota State.

Many ISU fans are eager for this game, and for good reason, but here’s why it’s likely Iowa State will be 1-0 leading into the Cy-Hawk matchup:

A new-and-improved Jack Trice Stadium will provide a revamped atmosphere to a fan base that’s craving some buzz. The addition of 3,000 seats and a brand new video board in the south end zone will bolster a gameday experience that could lead to “The Jack” becoming a more difficult place to play for opponents. 

The second year under a new coach or coordinator is often regarded as the biggest year of progression for a team. With Mark Mangino in his second year as offensive coordinator, expect the ISU offense to show more signs of life as “the Mangenius” has a history of improving offenses. In stops at Oklahoma and Kansas, Mangino’s offenses saw improvement in points and yards per game, and in turn, more wins.

Northern Iowa only starts one senior on defense and no one in the defensive backfield. Given Iowa State’s abundant strength at wide receiver, quarterback Sam Richardson should have a field day throwing to Allen Lazard and company.

On the defensive side for Iowa State, junior college transfer Demond Tucker, a former three-star recruit, is a key cog for what looks to be a vastly improved front seven — in part from Tucker’s potential to wreak havoc.

It also doesn’t hurt that ex-Cyclone killer, running back David Johnson, has moved on to the NFL. The Clinton, Iowa, native rushed for 199 yards and two scores in the 2013 matchup.

With plenty of sophomores and juniors starting for Northern Iowa, the future is bright in Cedar Falls, but Iowa State will usher in the revamped Jack Trice Stadium in style.

Prediction: Iowa State 31, Northern Iowa 21