NOTEBOOK: Touchbacks galore, injury updates and Will McDonald’s uncanny ability to get sacks

Sep 4, 2021; Ames, Iowa, USA; Iowa State Cyclones kicker Andrew Mavis (5) kicks a field goal at the end of the first half against the Northern Iowa Panthers at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

AMES, Iowa — Four kickoffs. Three touchbacks. And the only kickoff that new Iowa State grad transfer Andrew Mevis didn’t sail into the end zone pinned Northern Iowa at its own 20-yard line in the No. 7 Cyclones’ tension-packed 16-10 season-opening win Saturday over Northern Iowa.

 So that’s progress. Immense progress. Last season, ISU kicked off 75 times and just 10 ended up in the end zone.

 Oh, and Mevis — an Indiana native who last kicked for FCS Fordham in 2019 — also drilled a 40-yard field goal to complement Connor Assalley’s 2-for-2 effort on field goals from 35 and 21 yards out.

 “Just in general Andrew, I think, (is) a young man that’s got really high-end talent,” Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell said. “You’ve got to remember, he hasn’t played in a football game in over a year in a half, so you’re still working through some of those things for him, but in general, really a huge lift for our football team.”

Mevis’s most important touchback came after Assalley’s final field goal put ISU up by six. If he were to give UNI’s return man a chance for a big play, the game could have turned out decidedly different.

 “(If) they get a field return at the end when we go up 16-10, which is dangerous however you slice it — (former Cyclone) Kene (Nwangwu), we had one of those (big returns) in the Oklahoma game (last season),” Campbell said. “So if that ball comes out, now you’ve got to play defense with those guys. It’s a huge touchback. It’s almost out of the back of the end zone. I just think Andrew gives us change to have a real weapon and also be able to score points across the 50.”


 All-American tight end Charlie Kolar didn’t play i the first game for the second straight season. Wide receiver Sean Shaw was also out. And standout linebacker O’Rien Vance needed to be helped off the field during Saturday’s game, as well.

 Just where do all of those players stand?

 As for Kolar, who participated in Saturday’s warmups …

 “My hope is he’ll be back (next week),” Campbell said. “We felt like he was really close to playing today. He tweaked his ankle a couple weeks ago and he’s been relentless in trying to play but he was really close to playing but wasn’t quite ready yet.”

 As for Shaw …

“Probably a couple of weeks away. He had offseason surgery, I think he’s probably closer than not, I would say. Still probably not ready to go next week, but I would say after that maybe getting a little bit closer. Sean’s done a great job getting himself back ready to rock ’n roll for us.”

 Finally, as for Vance, who had a sack in Saturday’s game …

“I think he will be ok,” Campbell said. “It was a little bit of a hamstring deal. It’s not one of those things I’m (greatly) concerned about and I don’t think our staff is. I think we’ll know a lot more tomorrow. He was walking around pretty good inside. And then what’s the positive? Gerry Vaughn comes in and does a really good and played outstanding. He had been waiting for his opportunity.”


 As CF Publisher Chris Williams predicted last week based off information from a rock-solid source, next Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. Cy-Hawk matchup with always-tough Iowa will be framed by ESPN College GameDay’s presence. It’s the second time in three years the rivalry game will spring from that prominent stage.

“This will be a tremendous opportunity to showcase Iowa State University, our football program and fans to a national audience,” ISU’s Director of Athletics, Jamie Pollard, said in a release. “I am confident that our fans will again show out for this special event, just as they did two years ago.”


 Will McDonald sacked UNI quarterback Will McElvain on the third play of the game — and thus ascends into a tie for second all-time in career sacks at ISU with 18.5. The senior from Wisconsin has failed to record a sack in just four of the past 17 games.

 “Will is a different body type, too, right now,” Campbell said. “I think almost 247 (pounds) going into Thursday’s workout, which I think he’s done a great job of really physically preparing himself. Again, there were moments when he really flashed again today. I think Zach Petersen did some really good things in the pass rush — got two holding calls on him, which were awesome and provided pressure. I thought Enyi (Uwazurike) did some great things, but, man, really proud of Will and what he’s done physically to enhance his performance.”


 Iowa State won its 13th game as a ranked team since 2017. The Cyclones won a total of 13 games as a ranked team from 1892-2016. … Quarterback Brock Purdy is now 24-11 as a starter, adding to his most wins at the position in program history. … Assalley climbed to No. 2 on ISU’s all-time scoring chart with his two made field goals. He has scored 271 points in his career.