AMES — It was a fun and wild night inside Jack Trice Stadium.
Fans, players and coaches celebrated the opening of the newly-renovated south end zone. The Cyclones unveiled their highly-touted JUCO transfers that were set to reinvigorate the defense.
Oh, and Iowa State put some points up on its way to a 31-7 win over the Northern Iowa Panthers.
Here are my five takeaways from the Cyclones’ season opening win.
1. Dale Pierson is good. Really good.
Chris Williams has been saying all offseason long that Dale Pierson was the second-best player on the Iowa State defense at the end of last season. Saturday night, he made his case for being the best defender wearing the Cardinal and Gold.
Pierson was all over the field recording three sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss and a second quarter interception that flipped the tide of the entire game. He also had five tackles, the most of Iowa State’s defensive linemen.
This won’t be the first time that I write "I know it was against an FCS-opponent," but if Pierson continues to wreak havoc like that, he is in for a monster senior season.
Pierson isn’t the only one on that defensive line with the potential to make some noise in 2015.
JUCO transfer Demond Tucker was as advertised in his debut, finishing with two tackles and a sack. He was simply disruptive. Tucker didn’t always make the tackle, but his impact was almost always felt.
With Tucker and Pierson leading the way, the ISU defensive line was able to get pressure on the quarterback without tricky blitzes or other junk in its 3-4 scheme.
Letting those guys up front get after the quarterback frees up the linebackers and secondary to make more plays around the field. That brings me to my next point…
2. They weren’t lying, that defense is fast.
The coaching staff said all throughout fall camp that the defense would be much faster this season. Wally Burnham’s group proved it Saturday night.
The Cyclones were routinely getting five, six and seven defenders around the football, leading to some impressive gang tackling that hasn’t been seen the past few seasons.
Jordan Harris and Jay Jones (nine tackles a piece) were both all over the field and seemed to be near the football on every play. It was refreshing to see Iowa State players hitting runners in the backfield and dropping them for losses, 13 times to be exact.
They might not always be in the right spots, but these guys make up for it by running to the football with reckless abandon.
3. Who knew Allen Lazard could return punts?
There was a vocal group of Cyclone fans that were up in arms when Allen Lazard was included at punt returner on the depth chart on Monday. Is anyone going to still to question that choice?
Iowa State was dominant in the punt return game Saturday night, and therefore was dominant in the field position battle.
The sophomore from Urbandale returned four punts for 100 yards, the most by a Cyclones since Ryan Baum against UNI in 2006.
He sees the seams like a player that’s been returning punts for years and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him house one before this season is over.
Also, big props to walk-on Trever Ryen for his 81-yard return for a touchdown. That dude is fast and if he gets the opportunity, Ryen could make some plays down the road for ISU this season.
4. Dondre Daley, the other ISU receiver
The coaching staff made it very clear that Dondre Daley had one of the best fall camps of anyone on the team. He made his presence felt on Saturday collecting four receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown.
Daley might not get the publicity of guys like Lazard, Quenton Bundrage and D’Vario Montgomery but he will be a huge weapon for the Cyclones as the season progresses.
The guys in this receiving corps might not put up huge individual numbers, but it is so dynamic in the fact that a different guy could catch eight passes on any given night.
Or you can have like you did on Saturday when each guy was in the three, four or five range. Either way, this group has weapons and lots of them.
5. Running game shows promise
The Iowa State rushing attack showed flashes of its potential on several occasions throughout the game Saturday, including a 34-yard run by Tyler Brown in the first quarter.
But at the end of the day, 2.4 yards per carry isn’t going to get the job done in the Big 12.
There weren’t always holes for them to run through, but there were also times when the hole was there and they were just a split second too late hitting it.
All three backs showed they are capable of leading the rushing attack, but they are still far from imposing their will on teams on the ground.
But, for now, that doesn’t matter. They were good enough Saturday night.
For the first time in three seasons, the Cyclones are 1-0. And what’s next?
The in-state rival Iowa Hawkeyes for a 3:30 p.m. kick.