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AMES — Time seemed to stand still as the ball spun on the 1-yard line.

Northern Iowa players dived at it. Iowa State players dived at it.

The outcome of an incredibly hard-fought football game was there for the taking.

When the pile cleared, Cyclone quarterback Brock Purdy had the ball, and one play later Sheldon Croney scored on a 1-yard run as No. 21 Iowa State avoided UNI’s upset bid with a 29-26 triple-overtime victory at Jack Trice Stadium.

“When that ball was laying on the ground on that second-to-last play of the game, all that work and time came to that ball laying on the ground,” UNI head coach Mark Farley said. “It was who came out of the scrum with it. It sat there and actually stopped for a second, and we all saw it sit there.”

The play occurred on a third-and-one from the Panther 3 with UNI clinging to a 26-23 lead. Croney was hit hard at the line of scrimmage by Jared Brinkman and the ball squirted forward. Nobody saw it at first, and it was Purdy who dove on it a split second before a couple of Panthers and saved the day for Iowa State.

“That is about what the game was to us,” Farley added. “It was that instant of time that flashes by and we didn’t get it, and there are times we have gotten it down here.”

It was that close to UNI and Farley scoring their fourth win over the Cyclones in the head coach’s 19th season, and the near miss did not sit well with the Panthers.

“It sucks to lose,” said defensive back Xavior Williams, whose 53-yard fumble return for a touchdown late in the third quarter gave the Panthers a 13-10 lead.

In a game where many questioned whether UNI and its new starting quarterback could stick with what many are calling the best Cyclone team in decades, the Panthers didn’t back down a bit.

Trailing 3-0 at halftime, first-time starting quarterback Will McElvain settled in, and true freshman Matthew Cook tied the game with a 50-yard field goal just 2 minutes, 4 seconds into the third quarter.

Iowa State responded as Purdy hit La’Michael Pettway with a seven-yard touchdown pass for a 10-3 lead. Purdy completed 30 of 41 passes for 278 yards and the two scores for the Cyclones, with Deshaunte Jones hauling in 14 balls for 126 yards.

UNI had its own immediate answer. Cook nailed his second field goal with 1:44 left in the third from 31 yards, and then the Panthers got a huge break.

Elerson Smith put on a big rush and hit Purdy just before he threw the ball. The ball bounded forward where Williams grabbed it and raced 53 yards into the end zone for a touchdown and a 13-10 UNI lead with six seconds left in the third.

The play was reviewed and then confirmed as a fumble.

“I thought it was incomplete, too, but nobody blew the whistle so I just took it and ran, kind of ran, jogged a little bit,” Williams said.

The score stayed that way until Iowa State went on a 17-play, 74-yard drive that consumed 6:52 of the fourth. Connor Assalley kicked a 23-yard field goal with 59 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.

Each team settled for a field goal in the first overtime. Pettway’s second touchdown catch, a nine-yard grab, gave the Cyclones a 23-16 lead in the second.

McElvain then showed off his scrambling abilities, eluding several ISU defenders before floating a pass to Trevor Allen for a seven-yard touchdown.

Farley briefly thought about going for the win.

“I actually was going to (go for two), but I thought we were very gassed at that time,” Farley said. “I was out of timeouts. If I had a timeout, I would’ve called it and gone for it.”

Cook, the Cedar Falls native, gave UNI its last lead at 26-23 with a 28-yard field goal, his fourth of the game, before the final sequence of plays unfolded.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be perfect,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “I think some really good things occurred today. I think that the greatest thing that occurred, obviously, for us was the fact our leadership and guys that needed to make plays when it mattered most stepped up and made great plays. “

In his first start, McElvain showed elusiveness and improv skills that will help give opponents fits as he completed 25 of 42 passes for 228 yards and a touchdown.

However, UNI struggled to get its run game going, getting outrushed 185-34.

“There are negatives and positives from this game,” Allen said. “My biggest takeaway is we don’t quit. We were in it from the start, and we came down here to win.”

“We aren’t scared of anybody, either,” Williams added. “I think that was a good fight.”

ISU 29, UNI 26, 3 OTs

N. Iowa 0 0 13 0 3 7 3 — 26

Iowa St. 3 0 7 3 3 7 6 — 29

First quarter

ISU — FG Assalley 42, :53. (Drive: 9 plays, 34 yards, 2:37).

Third quarter

UNI — FG Cook 50, 12:56. (Drive: 7 plays, 33 yards, 2:04).

ISU — Pettway 7 pass from Purdy (Assalley kick), 8:31. (Drive: 9 plays, 75 yards, 4:25).

UNI — FG Cook 31, 1:44. (Drive: 15 plays, 75 yards, 6:45).

UNI — X. Williams 53 fumble return (Cook kick), :06.

Fourth quarter

ISU — FG Assalley 23, :59. (Drive: 17 plays, 74 yards, 6:52).

First overtime

UNI — FG Cook 49, :00. (Drive: 4 plays, minus 6 yards).

ISU — FG Assalley 22, :00. (Drive: 6 plays, 20 yards).

Second overtime

ISU — Pettway 9 pass from Purdy (Assalley kick), :00. (Drive: 4 plays, 25 yards).

UNI — T. Allen 7 pass from McElvain (Cook kick), :00. (Drive: 7 plays, 25 yards).

Third overtime

UNI — FG Cook 28, :00. (Drive: 6 plays, 14 yards).

ISU — Croney 1 run, :00. (Drive: 5 plays, 25 yards).

Att. — 61,500.

TEAM STATISTICS

UNI ISU

First downs 17 26

Rushes-yards 31-34 45-185

Passing yards 228 278

Comp-att-int 25-42-0 30-41-0

Return yards 43 23

Punts-avg. 6-39.5 3-38.33

Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-1

Penalties-yards 5-50 5-50

Time of possession 27:55 32:05

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

Rushing

UNI — T. Allen 15-26, Soko 6-5, James 1-3, McElvain 9-0.

IOWA ST. — Lang 14-60, Croney 13-56, Hall 11-47, Nwangwu 4-30, D. Jones 1-3, Purdy 2-minus 11.

Passing

UNI — McElvain 25-42-0, 228 yards.

IOWA ST. — Purdy 30-41-0, 278 yards.

Receiving

UNI — McShane 7-38, Bohr 5-43, Moore 4-26, James 3-37, Weston 2-48, T. Allen 2-26, Rima 1-7, Soko 1-3.

IOWA ST. — D. Jones 14-126, C.Kolar 4-45, Pettway 3-26, Croney 3-23, Milton 2-18, Akers 1-21, Soehner 1-11, Wilson 1-4, C.Allen 1-4.

Missed field goals

IOWA ST. — Assalley 31.

Tackles (solo-ast-total)

UNI — Jegen 8-7-15, Cuvelier 6-8-14, Brown 7-4-11, Lawrence 5-3-8, Flater 5-3-8, Perry 3-3-6, Lambert 2-4-6, Alexander 3-2-5, Smith 3-2-5, Brinkman 3-2-5, Thomas 1-4-5, Williams 2-1-3, Wells 1-2-3, Butcher 1-1-2.

IOWA ST. — Spears 5-4-9, Rose 7-1-8, Vance 6-2-8, Eisworth 5-3-8, White 4-4-8, Bickham 5-1-6, Young 1-4-5, Lima 1-3-4, Hummel 2-0-2, Azunna 2-0-2, Bailey 1-1-2, J. Johnson 1-1-2, Leo 1-1-2, Petersen 1-1-2, Uwazurike 0-1-1, A. Johnson 0-1-1.

Tackles for loss

UNI — Smith 2.5-11, Thomas 2-12, Butcher 1-1, Lambert 0.5-1.

IOWA ST. — Rose 3.5-12, Vance 2-6, Spears 1.5-3, Leo 1.5-2, Lima 0.5-0, Petersen 0.5-1, A. Johnson 0.5-1.

Sacks

UNI — Thomas 1-10, Smith 1-8.

IOWA ST. — Vance 2-6, Spears 0.5-2, Rose 0.5-2.

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