AMES (AP) — North Dakota State lost 12 starters and its head coach from a team that won a third straight FCS championship last season.
It might not make any difference.
One week into a new season, the Bison look just as efficient as ever under new coach Chris Klieman.
John Crockett ran for 138 yards and three touchdowns, including an 80-yard burst that helped turn the game around, and North Dakota State beat Iowa State 34-14 on Saturday for its 25th straight victory.
With their power running game and a sharp performance from quarterback Carson Wentz, the Bison rallied from a 14-0 deficit for their fifth consecutive victory against FBS competition.
“We’re not holding back on anyone,” Wentz said. “We’re going to keep this team rolling.”
Crockett charged through a hole in the middle of the line, cut to his right 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, who seized control of the line of scrimmage and dominated from then on, outgaining Iowa State 503-253.
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.
“Our kids are grounded,” Klieman said. “With being a head coach for the first time, I knew our guys weren’t going to panic and that we would get back in the game.”
Iowa State came in determined to avoid a repeat of last year’s opener, a loss to FCS Northern Iowa that started a spiral toward a 3-9 season, and the Cyclones looked sharp in scoring on two of their 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.
“We started fast. That was exciting to see. We got a stop on defense,” Iowa State coach Paul 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.”
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’ve just got to keep our heads up and go back out there and work,” Wimberly said.
There’s not much time to straighten things out. The Cyclones host No. 20 Kansas State in their Big 12 opener next Saturday.
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.
The second interception, by Colten Heagle, set up Crockett’s third touchdown. Fullback Chase Morlock capped the victory with a 66-yard TD run in the fourth quarter, delighting the green-and-gold-clad Bison fans in the stadium’s southwest corner.
The Bison soon joined them in celebrating what proved to be an emotional victory for Klieman, a former Iowa high school and University of Northern Iowa player.
“To see my brother, my dad, and my kids — to share that moment with them on the game field — it’s something I’ll never forget,” he said.
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.