AMES — Will McElvain admitted he may have gotten happy feet once or twice.
Those happy feet will get McElvain, Northern Iowa’s first-year quarterback, in trouble every once in a while but they also created a ton of excitement.
Perhaps the biggest question heading into Saturday’s game against Iowa State for the Panthers was how McElvain, a freshman from Des Moines, would perform in his first career start.
If the crowd was any kind of indicator, McElvain was electric at times.
“We knew what he was capable of doing, and he came in here and showed everyone who didn’t know,” running back Trevor Allen said.
McElvain was 25 of 42 for 228 yards and a touchdown, and he extended plays frequently by scrambling out of trouble. He threw the ball away many times when a play wasn’t there to be made. As the game wore on, he seemed to get more comfortable.
“It was exciting,” McElvain said. “It was a great atmosphere. I’ve just got to settle in (quicker). A lot of times I tried to make things happen too much in a sense, when I could’ve just gotten to my hot (read).
“There are definitely places I could play better and put us in better positions. I think we have one of the best offensive lines in the country. I got anxious (at times) ... going back to my instincts and got out of there (the pocket) and I’ve got to sit back there, trust them and let them do their jobs.”
McElvain’s only touchdown pass and the play before it were examples of extending plays and keeping his eyes downfield while doing it.
Facing a fourth-and-three in the third overtime, McElvain eluded a couple of rushers and looked like he had plenty of room to scramble for a first down, before pulling up short and hitting Deion McShane for a 11-yard gain.
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Then on third-and-goal from the seven, the initial play broke down with nobody open. McElvain scrambled left first, reversed course, dodged a tackler and then found Allen in the corner of the end zone all alone.
“Will played a really good football game,” UNI head coach Mark Farley said. “He’s going to be a good football player.”
“Their young quarterback I thought played an outstanding football game,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell added.
NAILED IT: A couple of true freshmen made big impacts in the game, including Omar Brown of Minneapolis, who started at left cornerback, finishing with 11 tackles.
But the player who really stood out was true freshman kicker Matthew Cook of Cedar Falls, who went 4-for-4 on the day with field goals of 50, 31, 49 and 28 yards.
“We watched him practice and knew he had a great leg, but that was a heck of a start to his college career right there,” Allen said. “He kept us in the game more than anyone.”
MOORE INJURED: UNI’s preseason All-America tight end Briley Moore was injured after a 10-yard reception midway through the third quarter and did not return to the game after spending several minutes on the ground being attended to by medical staff from both Iowa State and UNI.
Moore was able to get up on his own and walk off the field, and was later seen on the sidelines with his left arm in a sling.
“No idea,” Farley said of Moore’s status.