Knott leads ISU to season-opening victory

ISU sophomore linebacker Jake Knott likely could not have scripted his first career start any better. Knott intercepted two second-half passes to go along with nine tackles and a forced fumble, leading the defensive effort to preserve Iowa State's 27-10 season-opening win over Northern Illinois Thursday in front of a crowd of 43,116 at Jack Trice Stadium.

The Cyclones (1-0) jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead but found themselves only up by a touchdown with nine minutes left before scoring 10 points late to put the game on ice. Knott's second pick set up one of the late scores.

"Our linebackers run really well and they made some big plays tonight," defensive end Rashawn Parker said. "I was telling everybody all offseason that those guys are going to be good and they got a fresh test of that tonight."

Rhoads said he was relieved just to come out on the positive end and Knott was a big part of that.

"That was an outstanding win against a very good football team and a very good football program," coach Paul Rhoads said. "When we talk about playing Cyclone football, (Knott) is a kid that does it; he gives everything he has every day and he creates plays with that kind of energy."

Knott and the defense held the Huskies (0-1) to just 249 yards of offense with only 93 of that coming through the air. The Cyclone offense posted 403 yards of offense, as Austen Arnaud threw for 265 yards and ran for a touchdown. Alexander Robinson had 129 yards all-purpose yards and two rushing touchdowns as well.

Rhoads was thrilled with his defense's performance against a Huskie offense that uses a lot of motion to create numbers advantages at the point of attack.

"If you would have me that a week ago, I would have called you a liar," Rhoads said. "I told the offensive coaches, ‘you might have to score a lot,' but credit our kids and credit (defensive coordinator) Wally Burnham and his staff."

Iowa State got off to a solid start offensively and looked to be going ahead 7-0 on a 53-yard scoring run by Arnaud but that was called back by an illegal procedure penalty. The first offensive series of the season still moved into scoring range but ended on a missed field goal by Grant Mahoney.

The Cyclones continued to move the ball using a good mix of run and pass, however, and registered their first points of the season on a two-yard touchdown plunge by Arnaud, which made it 7-0.

Zac Sandvig then set the offense up with the ball on its own 37 after an interception and Alexander Robinson promptly doubled the lead on the next play with a 63-yard jaunt to the endzone.

"We proved what we are capable of but we weren't as consistent as we wanted to be," tight end Collin Franklin said. "We have a lot of weapons and made some big plays."

Grant Mahoney hit from 41 yards out on the next series to make it 17-0 and Iowa State had an opportunity to blow the game wide open but turned the ball over inside Huskie territory. Iowa State forced the three interceptions but also turned the ball over three times itself.

"We started like we prepared but some first game mistakes crept in and we made too many of them," Rhoads said. "You can't turn the ball over three times and expect to win the majority of your games but we are thrilled to come out of this game with a victory."

Northern Illinois got on the board with a field goal on its first series of the second half and got the ball back after Iowa State turned the ball over in Huskie territory for the second time. Knott returned the favor with a pick of his own with the Huskies in the red zone.

Northern Illinois got the ball back on the Cyclone 40 after a shanked punt and promptly put the ball in the endzone on a DeMarcus Grady one-yard sneak. Iowa State answered with a 73-yard march that was capped with Robinson's second score from five yards out before Knott put the game away by setting up a second Mahoney field goal.

"I thought this one was a draw as they competed for 60 minutes and so did we," Rhoads said. "The kids' focus was great and the resolve was equal to that and that was a huge drive to put in the endzone.

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