AMES, Iowa (AP) — With an inexperienced group on that side of the ball, Iowa State entered the season with major concerns about its defense.
Turns out those worries were not overblown.
Northern Iowa riddled the Cyclones with David Johnson's running and Sawyer Kollmorgen's passing and ruined Iowa State's opener with a 28-20 victory on Saturday night.
Johnson ran for a career-high 199 yards and two touchdowns and caught passes for two more scores, his four TDs tying the school's single-game record.
Seeking a return to the FCS playoffs after a rare losing record in 2012, Northern Iowa jumped to a 21-7 lead on a steamy Midwest evening and handed Iowa State its first season-opening loss in five seasons under coach Paul Rhoads, whose team is coming off two straight bowl appearances.
It simply was a case of too much Johnson.
"He's a great player. He is a Big 12-talented back," Rhoads said. "He's got size, he's got strength, he's got speed. He bounced to where our holes were, and a lot of those holes were where our guys were supposed to be and they weren't."
Iowa State recovered well enough to draw to 21-20 on Cole Netten's third-quarter field goals of 23 and 38 yards, the first of his career. But Johnson caught a short pass from Kollmorgen, slipped through three defenders and went 29 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter for an eight-point lead that held up.
Johnson, a 6-foot-3, 214-pound junior who showed both power and speed, piled up 125 yards on his first six carries, including scoring runs of 37 and 27 yards. He carried 23 times in all in topping his previous best of 149 yards last year.
Kollmorgen, who was thrust into the starting job as a freshman last year, completed 14 of his first 15 passes and finished 21 of 28 for 218 yards, no interceptions and the two touchdowns to Johnson.
"It was very important for our offense to score early," Johnson said. "We wanted to go out and show that we could compete early and we did."
Tormenting Iowa State with passes on short underneath routes, Kollmorgen was so effective in the early going that the Cyclones did not break up a pass until freshman linebacker Luke Knott knocked one away with 1:32 left in the first half.
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