AMES, Iowa — Sam Richardson’s performance was more than capable.
But an inexperienced front seven on defense couldn’t contain Northern Iowa’s David Johnson and two missed field goals contributed to Iowa State’s 28-20 loss to the Panthers Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium.
Richardson, making his third career start, passed for 242 yards and two touchdowns on 22 of 32 passing, and rushed for another 74.
Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads said it was good, but could’ve been better.
“The no interceptions are big, the completion percentage was close to two-thirds,” Rhoads said. “We had some lapses in the second half as we tried to take advantage of that efficiency and didn’t protect him.
“When you are standing there that long, those things dictate were we just flat out not getting open or was he not getting the ball out of his hands or was it the protection just that poor? There are a lot of things that contribute to that level of play.”
Richardson was sacked three times in the second half and was forced to scramble several other times as UNI ramped up its pressure.
But if it was uneven play Rhoads was disappointed about, it came from a defense, with just one starter returning on its front seven, who couldn’t corral UNI’s 6-foot-3, 214-pound Johnson. Johnson scored all four of the Panthers touchdowns, two on the ground and two through the air.
He rushed for 199 yards and caught four passes for 41. Johnson rushed for 126 of those yards in the first half when UNI built a 21-14 lead.
“He had a great game. He is a great player. He is a Big 12 caliber back there is no question about it,” Rhoads said. “He has strength, speed and bounced to where holes were and a lot of times they were holes where guys were supposed to be and they weren’t.”
Time and time again, Johnson had huge gaps to burst through, his first eight carries resulted in 112 yards and a touchdown in the opening half. He had runs of 37 and 32 during that span.
Iowa State was finally able to slow him down when redshirt freshmen Luke Knott replaced Jevohn Miller at will linebacker midway through the second quarter, but Johnson still found ways to beat the Cyclones.
“We were getting poor play out of the position and we needed to make a substition like we would any other position if somebody wasn’t performing to the level to help us win,” Rhoads said of the change at linebacker.
But Johnson had one big play left in him and he made it with 13 minutes left in the game. Taking a short swing pass in the left flat from Sawyer Kollmorgen, Johnson made three Cyclones — Jacques Washington, Sam Richardson and Knott miss him as he scampered 29 yards to paydirt to give UNI its 28-20 lead with 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
CYCLONE NOTES: Deon Broomfield had two fumble recoveries, including one at the ISU 1 with 1:44 left in the game that gave the Cyclones a shot late. ... After missing field goals, wide right and wide left, of 48 and 54 in the first half, Edwin Arceo was replaced by redshirt freshman Cole Netten in the second half. Netten made both his field goal attempts of 23 and 38. Arceo remained in the game to kickoff. ... The attendance at Jack Trice was 56,800 which tied a stadium record. ... Starting center Tom Farniok injured a knee with 13:33 left in the second quarter and did not return. Rhoads said the injury did not appear to be serious and Farniok, who has started 27 consecutive games, may be able to play against Iowa in two weeks. ... Iowa State was without starting cornerback Jansen Watson who was suspended for one-game for violation of team rules according to Rhoads. That left the Cyclones with two first-time starters, sophomore Sam Richardson and redshirt freshman Charlie Rogers.