Northern Iowa Vs Iowa State: Live Stream 2019 Five final thoughts: Iowa State vs. Northern Iowa Matt Campbell has led Iowa State to consecutive eight-win seasons and neither has come with a fast start or perfect non-conference slate.
Northern Iowa Vs Iowa State Live
The Cyclones’ eight-win seasons in the last two years have been aided by turnarounds more than anything as the program turned a 2-2 start in 2017 into four-straight October wins and followed a 1-3 start in 2018 with five-straight wins. While Paul Rhoads’ bowl seasons were always started with perfect 3-0 starts and seasons that fizzled some in Big 12 play, Campbell’s have been the opposite, slower early-season starts and stronger conference performances.
The hope is that 2019 can be a bit different in that regard. Iowa State enters Saturday’s season-opener against Northern Iowa ranked in the preseason for the first time since 1978 and facing high expectations. A fast start must begin with a win Saturday against the Panthers.
One of the most anticipated parts of Iowa State’s opener is to see how the running back position will unfold post-Montgomery. The Cyclones haven’t named a starter, but beyond that there is intrigue in how deep the coaching staff will go at the position and who commands the carries.
The thought is that redshirt sophomore Johnnie Lang will start against the Panthers and get the first crack. Lang, you may recall, played in the first game of his career as a true freshman in 2017 before taking a medical hardship. Health has mostly been what has held Lang back, so it’s hard to know what to expect. But by most accounts, he’s a complete back when healthy. This comment from Campbell back in July stands out now: “He’s got some of those complete back tendencies. Can catch the ball out of the backfield, strong at the block point but also has some elite vision at tailback.”
Still, Lang won’t be the only running back. The other name to keep an eye on is the new No. 28 — true freshman Breece Hall. The rookie has emerged through fall camp and could eventually become the lead back if he excels. This is where the race might still be ongoing. Even if Lang starts, a guy like Hall could still end up becoming the program’s starter similar to David Montgomery eventually taking the spot from Mike Warren back in the 2016 season. Time will tell.
Iowa State’s biggest key to success Saturday might be slowing the Northern Iowa rushing attack. If the Cyclones can make things difficult for the Panthers on the ground, it should force rookie quarterback Will McElvain to make plays.
Northern Iowa has a number of offensive weapons that should make things easier for McElvain in his first-career start including a returning 600-yard rusher, a preseason All-American tight end and the top-6 leading receivers from 2018. But if Iowa State makes the Panthers’ offense one dimensional, it could put pressure on McElvain to make throws. Nobody fully knows what to expect from Northern Iowa with a dual-threat, mobile quarterback, but the worst-case scenario for Iowa State is letting the rookie get settled in with the veterans that surround him.
The FCS upset typically happens in high-turnover and mistake-filled games, and that was the case in the first game of the Campbell Era back in 2016 when Iowa State lost 25-20 to Northern Iowa.
In that 2016 game, the Cyclones threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles to the Panthers’ one turnover, losing the turnover battle 4-1. That’s not to mention the team’s nine penalties for nearly 90 yards. An Iowa State team that was rebuilding and in the first game under a new coach lost by five and had chances to win even with all that mayhem, but the mishaps were too many. This 2019 version is an 18.5-point favorite, but the key to Saturday is keeping the ball. If Iowa State limits turnovers, it should find ways to maintain drives and put up points.
There is some drizzle and/or rain in Saturday’s forecast, and Iowa State is breaking in a group of inexperienced running backs and young receivers. Add in that the Panthers will mix up fronts to create some confusion and mistakes could be part of a Game 1 experience. These high-level FCS programs can negate the talent gap in these early-season games (see South Dakota State vs. Minnesota), and a sloppy game can make things interesting in a hurry.
Everybody knows that Iowa State will throw some passes in the direction of Deshaunte Jones and Tarique Milton, but the passing game will be just as interesting to watch as how the running back situation unfolds.
Iowa State may not choose to showcase everything in the opener, but the Cyclones have tinkered with three tight ends and there has been plenty of buzz surrounding redshirt freshman Joe Scates. That’s not to mention the fall camp emergence of new arrivals La’Michael Pettway and Darren Wilson. Again, coaches may choose not to showcase everything right off the bat, but seeing who they put on the field and how often will be interesting to watch after an offseason of questions. The guess is that Jones, Milton, Scates, Pettway and Wilson are five of the main targets at receiver, but both Landen Akers and Sean Shaw Jr. are in the mix too.
There are plenty of intriguing names to keep an eye on in the season-opener, but let’s highlight five that might draw the most attention Saturday:
Breece Hall, RB — Hall arrived at Iowa State in the winter with a lot of fanfare after being a Top247 prospect, but he seems to be living up to it early. The true freshman has shown great vision in scrimmages and has at times clearly looked like the team’s best running back. Iowa State has always been a bit cautious with its youngsters, but if Hall’s emergence continues and he shows consistency, it wouldn’t be shocking if the buzz turns into a starting spot this season.
Trevor Downing, OL — Iowa State started a redshirt freshman on its offensive line last season when it rolled out center Colin Newell. The Cyclones did wait a game to do that, though Campbell admitted later that may have been a mistake. Downing is one of Iowa State’s best linemen even at a young age and may crack the starting lineup in the season-opener. We’ll find out how that might work and how he looks if everything unfolds with him taking a starting job.
Joe Scates, WR — Scates is the third-highest rated recruit on record so it isn’t a total surprise that he’s showcased high-level talent. The key for Scates has been consistency in his young career, but that has supposedly taken a step this offseason leading into fall camp. People who have seen him in scrimmages say Scates is one of the best players when he’s on the field and showcases some of the team’s best athleticism. How much do we see him in Game 1?
Will McDonald, LB — It’s important to remember that McDonald is only a redshirt freshman, is playing linebacker for the first time in his life this season and has only been playing football for three years. And still, there is a lot to like about the 6-foot-4 youngster who can move in space. How much does he play? In what ways does Iowa State use him? That’ll be interesting to watch.
Kym-Mani King, CB — The one true freshman that has come up every time Campbell has referenced the 2019 class is King. The Cyclones are young at cornerback, which means King isn’t that far behind in the experience category. Will the summer and fall camp buzz lead to any playing time in the opener?