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Lightning cancels ISU football season opener

Cyclones led 7-0 after five minutes before game was called off.

Posted: Sep 2, 2018 12:27 AM
Updated: Sep 2, 2018 8:40 AM

AMES, Iowa - A night of miserable and dangerous weather put a damper on one of the most highly anticipated season openers in recent memory at Iowa State.

The game against South Dakota State was canceled on Saturday night after a 2 ½-hour delay caused by lightning.

The Cyclones made the announcement just before 10 p.m. local time after the teams were able to get less than five minutes of play in. Iowa State said there were no immediate plans to reschedule the game since the teams' bye weeks don't line up. The game will be counted as a "no contest" per NCAA rules, and all the accrued statistics will be voided.

"At the end of the day, player safety is of the utmost importance. After talking to coach (Matt) Campbell and to their head football coach, both coaches agreed that given what we saw on the radar, staying and prolonging probably the inevitable wasn't in the best interests of either team," Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said.

For five minutes, the Cyclones showed why their fan base is so fired up for this fall.

Deshaunte Jones worked his way through SDSU's defense to reel in a 55-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Kempt, giving Iowa State a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter.

But bad weather in the area — the Akron vs. Nebraska game in Lincoln, Nebraska, 225 miles away, was also called off by poor conditions — prompted a delay that never ended.

Iowa State's bye comes on the weekend of Oct. 20, and Pollard said that it's possible that the Cyclones will find a team to play at home that Saturday.

"I'm going to guess there's probably a whole host of FCS opponents around the Midwest are in the same boat we're in, that they're going to lose a game. So we'll have ample time to work on that over the next several weeks to possibly schedule somebody else," Pollard said.

Still, the cancellation was a bummer for an Iowa State program coming off one of its best seasons in decades.

The Cyclones went 8-5 in 2017, beating two top-five teams and Memphis in the Liberty Bowl. Campbell signed a new six-year contract instead of looking for greener pastures.

With a host of returning starters on both sides of the ball, there's a feeling in Ames that 2018 might rank among the best in school history. Instead, it started with the first cancellation for the Cyclones since 1963, when their game at Drake was called off because of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

The lack of game action could also hinder Iowa State as it prepares to travel to rival Iowa next weekend. After that date, the home opener will now be a daunting one: No. 7 Oklahoma, which opened the season by throttling Florida Atlantic 63-14.

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