Cedar Rapids, Iowa News, Sports, and Weather
AMES – David Johnson came up one yard and one play short.
No, Johnson didn't cost Northern Iowa the game against Iowa State. The Panthers (1-0) did just fine in that regard, holding off their in-state, FBS opponent in the 28-20 upset victory last night at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames.
What Johnson came up short of was a "great" game when he fumbled on the ISU one yard line with 1:44 to play.
"That's a good performance (from David). It's a great performance had he not fumbled," said Northern Iowa Coach Mark Farley. "(But) I think David plays hard. He plays hard all the time.
"It was a good performance, and David Johnson is a great running back."
Of course, Farley wasn't going to be too hard on his star running back. Johnson carried the ball 23 times for 199 yards, and three touchdowns on the ground. He added another score on a pass from quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen, and ended the game in a tie for most individual touchdowns in one game by a Panther with four.
His slashing runs left the Cyclones (0-1) on their heels for much of the game, and guided the Panthers to their first victory over Iowa State since 2007.
"With us being so experienced, we wanted to come out and dominate in the first half and show them we were a good team," Johnson said. "They were slanting their (defensive) line, so coach was telling me to just hit the hole, don't hesitate and follow my blockers."
As he said, Johnson didn't do it all on his own. Farley was quick to point out after the game that the offensive line did more than its fair share.
The retooled unit paved the way for Johnson throughout most of the game, allowing the Clinton native to reach the second level of the Cyclone defense on numerous occasions.
"David is exceptional, but what really pleased me tonight was the line blocking," Farley said. "I thought our offensive line was tremendous. I did not know if we could control the line of scrimmage like that. You talk like you're going to, but I didn't know if we could against this team. But they did, and they did it consistently all night long."
From the Iowa State sideline, it was painfully obvious that the UNI line was having success up front.
With the size, speed and agility of Johnson, mistakes and missed assignments from the Cyclone defense were clearly a recipe for disaster.
"He's a Big 12-talented back. There's no question about that," said Iowa State Coach Paul Rhoads. "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."
On Johnson's final score, a short pass from Kollmorgen that he turned into a 29 yard touchdown, the shifty back eluded three Iowa State defenders en route to the endzone.
It was plays like that that got the Panther defense fired up and inspired to continue to stop the Cyclone offense and get Johnson back on the field for more.
"When David was breaking those tackles on 3rd and 1...and then he goes and scores, we (said to each other), 'That's stinkin' awesome,'" said UNI linebacker Jake Farley. "(Johnson running well) takes a lot of stress off us, and we can just go out there and try and keep them in their territory."
After near-misses against Wisconsin and Iowa last year, and Iowa State in 2011, Johnson, Farley and the team were more relieved than anything to finish this game off.
In the wake of the upset, Johnson was a man of few words. But after the 2012 the Panthers endured, they were eager to see this win through.
"I'm just so excited we came out on top after what happened two years ago," Johnson said. "It's a big momentum swing for us in the conference. And after last year's season, we had that bitter taste in our mouths after going 5-6. We had a lot of time to think about it and work hard."
- See more at: http://thegazette.com/2013/09/01/johnson-almost-great-in-northern-iowas-upset-of-iowa-state/#sthash.5MdhDr4s.dpuf