Although the Cyclones didn't come away with any points in their opening drive, Barney Cotton's new offense set quite a tone. Tailback Stevie Hicks truly was a workhorse, carrying eight times for 38 yards. Bret Meyer added one scramble for 15 yards and completed 2-of-4 passes for 15 yards. However, the drive stalled in the red zone as Iowa State came up short on a 4th-and-2 attempt. An injury to Tony Yelk left head coach Dan McCarney willing to take the chance.
ISU's defense was up for the task early in the season opener, holding the Panthers out of Cyclone territory throughout the quarter. Tom Petrie managed just two completions in four attempts for six yards.
After going three-and-out in its second possession of the game, ISU's offense got going on the third. Meyer completed a 25-yard pass to Jon Davis down the right sideline, then got an extra 15 yards on a personal foul penalty by Northern Iowa. However, the Cyclones would stall again in the red zone. This time, however, McCarney gave freshman kicker Brian Jansen an opportunity to kick. The Overland Park, Kan., native gave the Cyclones a 3-0 lead on a 37-yard field goal.
Austin Flynn entered the game at quarterback for ISU's next drive, which came after a UNI three-and-out. Flynn wasted no time getting comfortable, connecting with Todd Blythe in the corner of the end zone. The 23-yard touchdown pass gave ISU a 10-0 advantage with 10:48 remaining in the half.
The Panther offense continued to struggle with Petrie at the helm, and was stopped three-and-out in three of four drives. Petrie managed to spark his team late in the half, throwing a 17-yard pass to Brian Cutright for a fresh set of downs. However, three plays later he was sacked by Brent Curvey on 3rd-and-7 to force a punt.
Back in the game to command the two-minute offense, Meyer marched his team down the field. He completed his first seven passes for 64 yards to put ISU at the nine-yard line with just under one minute to go. But that's when the adventure began. A false start penalty cost the Cyclones five yards, and would bring up a 3rd-and-goal play from the nine-yard line. Officials ruled that the Panthers interfered with Meyer's pass attempt to Blythe in the corner of the end zone. That gave ISU a fresh set of downs and led to a three-yard touchdown pass from Meyer to Jon Davis.
The score capped a 15-play, 68-yard drive that spanned just 2:27, and gave the Cyclones a 17-0 lead with 10 seconds remaining in the half.
Both offenses didn't muster much in the way of drives throughout much of the third quarter. UNI still had yet to march into ISU territory, despite taking over at its own 41-yard line midway through the quarter. A nine-yard scramble by Petrie on that drive brought the Panthers close, but they would end up punting from their own 48.
The Cyclone offense got untracked late in the session thanks to a steady dose of Hicks. The sophomore tailback rushed five consecutive times for 56 yards, including a 39-yard scamper on the opening play, to put his team in the red zone. Hicks' effort put him at 106 yards on 22 carries – the second-consecutive game he has gone into triple digits.
True freshman fullback Tony Johnson capped off the Cyclones' most impressive drive of the half, plunging into the end zone from two yards out. Jansen's extra point was blocked, however, leaving ISU with a 23-0 advantage at the 14:06 mark.
UNI finally drove into Cyclone territory on the ensuing drive, but it would last for just two plays. Richard Carter's six-yard run put UNI at the 47-yard line, but Shawn Moorehead sacked Petrie on 4th-and-2 to give the Cyclones possession.