AMES, Iowa (AP) — Maybe Iowa State should just quit playing FCS teams.
A loss to FCS Northern Iowa in last year's opener set the tone for what became a disastrous 3-9 season. Now, the Cyclones face the challenge of recovering from a similar season-opening loss — this one to North Dakota State, winner of the last three FCS championships.
John Crockett ran for 138 yards and three touchdowns and North Dakota State beat Iowa State 34-14 on Saturday for its 25th straight victory.
"This was a different loss," ISU coach Paul Rhoads insisted. "We had a great training camp. We had great preparation for what we saw. We just got beat by a team that was better than us on August 30th. That's what happened."
There's not much time to get things back together. The Cyclones host No. 20 Kansas State in their Big 12 opener next Saturday, then play at Iowa a week later.
"We've got to stay focused," defensive lineman Cory Morrissey said. "There's nothing we can talk about. We've just got to stay focused and work."
The Bison lost 12 starters and their head coach from last season's 15-0 team, but they looked just as efficient as ever under new coach Chris Klieman, rallying from a 14-0 deficit for their fifth consecutive victory against FBS competition.
Crockett charged through a hole in the middle of the line and sped 80 yards for his team's first touchdown early in the second quarter — the longest run of his career. That seemed to inspire the Bison and they dominated from then on, outgaining the Cyclones 503-253.
"We started fast. That was exciting to see. We got a stop on defense," Rhoads said. "Then the toll of that type of offense began to take effect on us. It's designed to wear you down and it did wear us down. It got to the point we couldn't stop them from getting a first down, let alone anything that could control the football game."
Carson Wentz, the backup quarterback the last two seasons, showed impressive poise as he picked apart an inexperienced Iowa State defense and finished 18 of 28 for 204 yards with no interceptions.
Iowa State looked sharp in scoring on two of its first three possessions. But new coordinator Mark Mangino's offense stalled repeatedly once veteran center Tom Farniok went out with an apparent left knee injury late in the first quarter.
After Sam Richardson's 44-yard pass to touted recruit Allen Lazard set up Aaron Wimberly's 3-yard TD run for a 14-0 lead, Iowa State crossed midfield only once and that drive ended with an interception. North Dakota State turned the pick into Adam Keller's 19-yard field goal on the final play of the first half, putting the Bison up 17-14.
"We had great preparation," Wimberly said. "Everything we saw on the field we had seen on film. They just got the better of us."
Crockett, coming off two straight 1,000-yard seasons, carried 17 times and added TD runs of 1 and 3 yards, the 1-yarder coming one play after Wentz hit Zach Vraa for 44 yards. Vraa consistently found openings in the secondary and finished with seven receptions for 82 yards.
Richardson won the starting job in a preseason competition with Grant Rohach, who led Iowa State to victories in its final two games last fall. He led the Cyclones with 58 yards rushing but his 20 completions in 31 attempts produced only 151 yards and he was intercepted twice.
Along with Farniok, Iowa State lost two other starters early in the game. Quenton Bundrage, the team's leading receiver last year, injured his right knee on the fourth play and cornerback Kamari Cotton-Moya was ejected for targeting on North Dakota State's first offensive series.
Rhoads refused to blame Farniok's injury for the offensive struggles and said he expected his center to return for the Kansas State game. But with Bundrage also hurt?
"You combine the two them, now you're starting to add things up," Rhoads said.