Quick Hits: Iowa State 31, UNI 7

Iowa State won its first season-opener since 2012 on Saturday in front of a record crowd at Jack Trice Stadium, dispatching in-state rival Northern Iowa, 31-7.

The New-Look Defense

Iowa State came out in a 3-4 defense, and the new-look unit lived up to the fall camp hype by stifling the Northern Iowa offense, surrendering a lone second quarter score before shutting the Panthers out in the second half. 

The biggest gain for this Iowa State defense? Pressure. 

The Cyclones collected six sacks in the season-opener after racking up just 15 in all of 2014. Three of those came from defensive end Dale Pierson, who also intercepted Northern Iowa quarterback Aaron Bailey to swing momentum in the Cyclones' favor.

An Iowa State unit that allowed 246 rushing yards per game in 2014 surrendered 126 on Saturday, most coming from Bailey on both broken plays and designed runs. Bailey rushed for 117 yards on 22 carries. The defense otherwise allowed 59 rushing yards on 19 carries. 

Lazard Shines In Return Game

Nobody, including Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads, was quite sure what to expect from sophomore receiver Allen Lazard as the team's primary punt returner. Nonetheless, Iowa State received a good first look Saturday.

Lazard returned four punts for 100 yards, each time setting the Cyclones' offense up with strong field position.

Return Yardage Starting Position End Result
27 yards UNI 42 Punt
26 yards UNI 26 Field Goal
13 yards ISU 49 Fumble
34 yards UNI 23 Touchdown

The returns set Iowa State up nicely, and the Cyclones came away with a 24-point victory despite not capitalizing on two of the returns, one ending with a Quenton Bundrage fumble at the goal line. Lazard became the first Iowa State returner with 100 punt return yards in a game since Ryan Baum had 103 against Northern Iowa in 2006. 

When Lazard was lifted, his backup didn't fare much worse. Trever Ryen had 93 return yards on four returns, taking advantage of an 81-yard touchdown return to make up for the bulk of that yardage. The 193 punt return yards set a school record. 

The Missing Faces

There were three notable players missing from action Saturday.

Starting right guard Daniel Burton didn't suit up as he deals with a knee issue, and Rhoads said he's day-to-day moving forward. Meanwhile, starting defensive end Trent Taylor and backup receiver Jauan Wesley both sat out for violating Iowa State's code of conduct.

Both Taylor and Wesley will return to action against Iowa. 

So, How About That D?

There has been plenty of speculation that Iowa State would run a 3-4 defense, and Iowa State went primarily with that scheme in the season-opener. 

The Cyclones rotated in a number of defensive linemen with Gabe Luna, Demond Tucker and Pierson getting the starts on the front and Levi Peters, Jordan Harris, Willie Harvey and Jay Jones getting the starts at linebacker. Iowa State rotated in a number of linemen including Jhaustin Thomas, Pierre Aka, J.D. Waggoner, Bobby Leath and Vernell Trent among others.

Rhoads said after the game Iowa State hadn't planned on sticking in 3-4 as much as it did, adding that against an offense like Iowa, the unit could run more 4-3.

Stay tuned. 

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