AMES - David Johnson's 22-yard gallop on third down sent many Cyclone fans to the gates early.
A few moments later, his fumble brought more than a few back.
Whether it was his one stumble or his many highlights, the Panther tailback had Iowa State's attention throughout - accounting for all four Northern Iowa touchdowns in a 28-20 victory over the Cyclones at Jack Trice Stadium Saturday.
The Clinton native broke loose for a career-high 199 yards on the ground and a couple touchdowns through the air. His four touchdowns tied a Panther school record, which he came within a yard of breaking in the final minutes.
On his way for a fifth score, Johnson lost the ball without being hit on the Cyclone's 1-yard line with 1:44 to play. Deon Broomfield's recovery gave Iowa State one last chance, though like they had in the third quarter - the Panther defense rose to the occasion and eventually forced a turnover on downs to preserve the win.
The one slip-up led UNI coach Mark Farley to consider it a "good" if not "great" game from his tailback, though his production came as no surprise.
Northern Iowa 28, Iowa St. 20
UNI-D.Johnson 37 run (Sievertsen kick), 6:13.
ISU-Coleman 59 pass from S.Richardson (Arceo kick), 3:37.
UNI-D.Johnson 9 pass from Kollmorgen (Sievertsen kick), 14:55.
UNI-D.Johnson 27 run (Sievertsen kick), 6:52.
ISU-J.White 7 pass from S.Richardson (Arceo kick), 3:45.
ISU-FG Netten 23, 5:50.
ISU-FG Netten 38, 4:19.
UNI-D.Johnson 29 pass from Kollmorgen (Sievertsen kick), 13:00.
Time of Possession28:0731:53
RUSHING-N. Iowa, D.Johnson 23-199, Carnes 1-14, E.Williams 4-12, Owens 2-10, Team 1-(minus 2), Kollmorgen 2-(minus 5). Iowa St., S.Richardson 21-74, Wimberly 8-35, J.White 7-34, Johnson 5-22, Woody 3-3.
PASSING-N. Iowa, Kollmorgen 21-28-0-218, Carnes 1-1-0-11. Iowa St., S.Richardson 22-32-0-242.
RECEIVING-N. Iowa, Vereen 7-68, Owens 5-45, D.Johnson 4-41, Wright 3-24, Rohr 1-36, E.Williams 1-13, Lehman 1-2. Iowa St., J.White 5-49, Coleman 4-103, Ecby 4-43, Bundrage 3-31, Bibbs 2-3, J.West 1-9, Boesen 1-5, Brun 1-2, Wimberly 1-(minus 3).
"David is a special person. Not just a special player but a special person. That's David every day of the week."
Farley also praised his offensive line's work in the trenches as UNI more than held its own against the Cyclones tallying 162 yards on the ground to the Cyclones' 144.
"Our offensive line was tremendous," Farley said. "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. They did it and they did it consistently all night long."
The Cyclones closed a 21-14 halftime deficit to four with 5:50 to play in the third when redshirt freshman Cole Netten converted his first collegiate field goal from 23 yards. Iowa State retained possession on the Panthers' next play from scrimmage when Broomfield jarred the ball loose from Evan Williams and recovered it at the 20.
A Sam Tim sack and a Sam Richardson incompletion stemmed the tide as the Panthers held ISU to another field goal attempt. Netten connected from 38 yards out to close the deficit to one with 4:19 remaining in the third, though the momentum had shifted back to UNI.
"After Evan fumbled and we only gave up three points on that series, I thought that really swung it back in our favor," said Farley.
Johnson gave the Panthers some separation with another third-down conversion early in the fourth. Facing 3rd-and-10, Johnson hauled in a 29-yard touchdown reception to give UNI a 28-20 lead with 13 minutes to play.
Johnson, a lightly recruited player from Clinton, struck three times in the first half with touchdowns runs of 37 and 27 yards along with a nine-yard TD reception as UNI opened a 21-7 advantage midway through the second quarter. Richardson brought Iowa State back within a score, tossing a 7-yard strike to James White with 3:45 left in the half.
Richardson completed 18-of-26 passes fro two touchdowns and 216 yards, while also leading the Cyclones on the ground with 69 yards on 16 carries. Sawyer Kollmorgen countered with a 16-for-22, 167-yard, one touchdown effort as neither quarterback turned it over.
"They had an outstanding game plan on both sides of the ball," Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said.
"They had great execution, especially for game one of the season. They did that with talented players certainly in both the quarterback and running back position."
Justin Coleman's first career reception - a 59-yard strike from Richardson - knotted the game at 7 with 3:37 left in the first, though Johnson and the Panthers went back to work on the next drive. Johnson's 9-yard TD haul reclaimed a seven-point advantage for the Panthers on the first play of the second quarter. The Cyclones first and final drives of the first half came up empty as Edwin Arceo missed a pair of field goals from 48 and 54 yards respectively - with both sailing wide left.
The victory served as a bit of revenge for the Panthers, who lost a 20-19 contest to Iowa State in 2011.
"I'm just so excited that we came out on top against Iowa State after what happened two years ago," said Johnson, who helped the Panther offense set the tone from the start as UNI never trailed.
"It was very important for our offense with us being so experience. We wanted to come out and dominate in the first half and show them that we're a good team, a good offense."
Kickoff temperature was at 92 degrees, the warmest ever for an Iowa State game. ... Coleman became the first Cyclone to have more than 100 yards receiving in a season-opener since Ed Williams in 1997. ... Johnson's four touchdowns tied UNI's single-game record.