ISU has proven it can beat anybody
If someone makes a poster about parity in major college football conferences, Iowa State should be the “poster child.”
Ranked to finish toward the bottom of the Big 12 Conference, here are the upsets the Cyclones have pulled off in the last four years:
2012 – Beat TCU at Fort Worth and Baylor at Ames.
2011 – Upset previously unbeaten Oklahoma State and cost the Cowboys a shot at the national title.
2010 – Beat Texas in Austin.
2009 – Beat Nebraska in Lincoln.
Beating undefeated, highly ranked OSU on national television was a big boost for the ISU program.
“It was a national stage that recruits, that fans of the game, that fans of Iowa State got to see in all parts of the country,” Rhoads said. “What that really did for us is gave us instant national recognition.
I don’t think some folks in some parts probably recognized Iowa State football as being capable of playing on the national stage, and then I would say, without a doubt, it’s the biggest victory in the history of our program. So now to walk in as a recruiter or just an ambassador of the university has been magnified several times fold with that victory.”
The upset wins have helped recruiting.
“We’ve had three victories in the last three years over ranked opponents,” Rhoads said. “So when you start to accomplish things on the field, doors open more for you in the recruiting houses.
“The State of Iowa does not produce enough players for us to just stay at home. We’re going to thoroughly recruit the State of Iowa. We’re going to hit the Midwestern states, but then we’re going to go to states like the great state of Texas and Florida and California, and we’re into the state of Georgia a little bit more. Places where you can go in the springtime and see kids and accurately evaluate the right fits for a place like ours, like Iowa State University.”
It will be harder for ISU to sneak up on opponents this year and the Cyclones have lost more starters to graduation than any other team in the Big 12.
“This year’s senior class, we’ve got 16 seniors,” said ISU coach Paul Rhoads. “And this is the first group that’s come full cycle with us, fifth-year guys that we’ve recruited, that we’ve brought in and put out on the field.
” I think those 16 seniors are going to help us overcome the youth that will be out on the field for us. They’re a very energetic group. They’re a hardworking group, and they’ve got a passion for Iowa State University and playing our brand of football.”
Quarterback Sam Richardson returns and Rhoads thinks he has more capable running backs than ever before.
Linebacker Jeremiah George, a senior, and safety Jacques Washington anchor the defense.
“We believe we’ve got the best punter in college football, Kirby Van Der Kamp, if you really analyze him and what he’s done, pinning people inside the 20 with a very small amount of touchbacks,” Rhoads said. “Simply stated, I think he’s the best there is in college football.
“We’re going to take all this and approach a schedule that once again will be in the top 10, if not the top five, toughest in college football. It’s not that that necessarily concerns me, it’s how this schedule unfolds. In our first six games – the first half of the season – every preparation is different for us.
“For example, we have the first game coming out of training camp. Then we’ve got a 14-day preparation. Then we have a 12-day preparation in there, a 9-day preparation, a Thursday-to-Thursday game. It isn’t until the second half of the season that we’re playing normal Saturday-to-Saturday football games, and that will be a challenge for our staff and our kids and one we look forward to.”
Iowa State will play a Thursday night game against Texas. The Longhorns hardly ever play on Thursday night (except on Thanksgiving Day).
“One of the last ones they did, they came to Ames and just whooped our butts on a Thursday night when we were undefeated and excited about playing that game,” Rhoads said. “So we’d better play a lot better as we entertain the Longhorns in Ames again this year. I always hope that Mack’s (Brown) going to be excited about being back in Ames and forget about the game, but he doesn’t seem to do that.
“It just adds to the ambience and environment in Jack Trice Stadium and our passionate fan base that I already believe our venue combined with our fan base is one of the best in college athletics. We’re overcapacity in attendance. We’ve set single season attendance marks the last two years, both season ticket sales and attendance numbers.
That energy, that national exposure with a marquee opponent like Texas does nothing but upgrade every effort that we’re making to improve our program.”
Rhoads’ son will be a walkon for Iowa State this year.
“I am really, really excited about it,” Rhoads said. “My father was a high school football coach for 30 years in the State of Iowa, and he was a member of the high school football Hall of Fame. But my mother didn’t want her boys playing or going under that scrutiny that belongs with that relationship.
“I was blessed that my son chose Iowa State and is going to join our program. It’s going to be a complete different dynamic, and I’ve already seen him mature and grow in the five weeks that he’s been a part of our summer training, and as a parent, that’s a very proud moment to see that taking place.”