North Dakota State vs Iowa State football: Game preview and prediction


We’re finally here. Iowa State is riding a two-game winning streak from last season and has next to zero expectations heading into 2014. Everybody says that the Cyclones will finish in the bottom three of the Big 12 Conference and they’ll be very lucky to get to a bowl game.

Finally, all the preseason crap is over with. With just one game, Iowa State can put the negative talk to rest and end North Dakota State’s four-game winning streak against FBS opponents.

North Dakota State Bison vs Iowa State Cyclones

Jack Trice Stadium | Ames, Iowa
Saturday, August 30, 2014
Kickoff – 11:00 AM CT | TV – FOX Sports 1

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The last time the Bison lost to an FBS opponent was against these very Cyclones they’ll face on Saturday back in 2009. That was Paul Rhoads’ first game as head coach. To jog our memories, let’s take a quick look back at how the win happened.

Iowa State had a balanced attack on offense gaining over 200 separate yards running and passing the ball. North Dakota State committed 8 penalties and ISU had 10 more first downs. A lot of the results in the game must be duplicated in order for the Cyclones to start off their season on a winning note.

North Dakota State comes into Jack Trice Stadium with a 24-game winning streak and winning three straight FCS championships. However, they lose their starting quarterback, Brock Jensen, that was apart of the long winning streak and their head coach, Craig Bohl, that was there since 2003. Those are some major hurdles the Bison have to get over to regain their dominance in the FCS level, but they still have a lot of pieces that are still around.

Jan 4, 2014; Frisco, TX, USA; North Dakota State Bison wide receiver Zach Vraa (82) catches a touchdown pass while defended by Towson Tigers defensive end

Ryan Delaire

(56) in the second quarter at Toyota Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Analyzing NDSU

On offense, NDSU is power offense oriented. They’ll run the ball more than pass it in about a 2:1 ratio. They’ll make use of the fullback, Andrew Bonnet, who will be utilized more as a dumpoff receiver than anything else. Multiple tight ends could also line up at one time, and when they’re in the red zone, the Cyclones must keep an eye on Kevin Vaadeland, who had 8 touchdowns on 20 catches last season.

Defense is where this team shines. Last year, the Bison held all their opponents to a combined 169 points. They outscored their opponents on average by 27.4 points. There are six normal starters that are coming back, and the both linebacker and secondary units will be in full form. The question will be the newcomers on the defensive line. Kyle Emanuel at right end is back, but the other three starters on the line have only started in three games total last season.

What to watch for

NDSU’s weaknesses are on the offensive and defensive line, and that’s actually good news for Iowa State. The offensive gameplan for the Cyclones must include a focus on running the ball. Aaron Wimberly needs to have a 100-yard day or more on the ground, or at least have solid production picking up yards between Wimberly and DeVondrick Nealy.

Iowa State is not going to bomb over this team’s defense by passing the ball, so it will be ideal to get the ground game established. There will not be a lot of points scored in this game unless the Cyclones defense still can’t stop the run and let John Crockett run all over them. NDSU will be trying to find another running back to compliment Crockett so they can have a similar “thunder and lightning” running attack from last year, so ISU will need to be prepared for both backups Chase Morlock and King Frazier.

Finally, Iowa State needs to win field position. In a low scoring game, special teams can’t afford to make mistakes and there will be a lot of pressure on the new punter, Colin Downing.


Early in the spring when we did way too early previews, we predicted that NDSU would beat Iowa State. That was also the same time that the team wasn’t sure on their quarterback position, there was a mass exodus on their defensive line, and we didn’t know much about Paul Rhoads’ new staff.

There’s a lot of experience coming back with the Bison, but they won’t overcome the loss of their quarterback, head coach, and the battle between the trenches.

The Cyclones have had a very good fall camp. Team chemistry seems to be better heading into the season opener this year and Rhoads couldn’t be happier. Richardson looks stronger and the offensive line won’t have a replication of their bad luck. And there’s a lot of weapons that they can use against NDSU’s secondary. They are great, but the stats are slightly inflated due to the division of football that they play in. Let’s be honest — Iowa State should still be getting the better talent in all phases of the game over NDSU.

There’s a lot of experience coming back with the Bison, but they won’t overcome the loss of their quarterback, head coach, and the battle between the trenches. Wimberly will break out for over 100 yards and Richardson will finally find Quenton Bundrage later in the game. Another receiver will break out and have a memorable start to the season.

There won’t be a ton of scoring, but Iowa State will put this game away late with a final touchdown to E.J. Bibbs in the final minutes.

IAST 27, NDSU 17