Anyone who has been an Iowa State Cyclones football fan knows how long and in between it can be between two good seasons, and how the University's long time inexplicable standing of athletics being of no importance have caused suffering among fans. Yet there's a loyalty which is incredible considering what the fan base has been through, and while a 6-6 season followed by a 5-7 season might not seem like much at first glance, there is very good reason for Cyclones fans to be excited about the future.
This article is being written even before the third season is over, and while a bowl is unlikely (the schedule is considered one of the most difficult in recent history - beating all non ranked teams would mean only 4 wins on the year) there are many reasons to believe I-State is on the right track. Head Coach Paul Rhoads already is a YouTube sensation and has national attention for his passion and his ability. The following is a list of head coach Paul Rhoads' five most imprssive victories so far, as well as a list of runner ups and short list of his accomplishments so far as an Iowa State coach. You can argue with which order these should be in, but not at how impressive they are: especially considering the lack of talent he inherited.
Top 5 Iowa State Football Victories under Paul Rhoads
#1: 2011 @ Texas Tech, 41-7. This was considered by many to be the most stunning result of the week that season, as Texas Tech was ranked #19, coming off an amazing upset of #1 Oklahoma. Iowa State was struggling mightily, especially on offense, and was traveling to Lubbock. Almost no one gave Iowa State a chance at staying within two TDs. Instead, Iowa State destroyed Texas Tech on both sides of the ball, coming up with their biggest road win against a ranked opponent in history, as well as their first victory ever at Lubbock. This kept up the yearly tradition of at least one "where the hell did that come from?" victory on the road, and garnered a lot of attention. He did this with a redshirt freshman quarterback making his first start - the second time a huge upset occurred with a back up quarterback and showed that this team won't fold, even when stacking up week after week of beatings by top 20 teams.
#2: 2010 @ Texas, 28-21. Do you know how often the Iowa State Cyclones beat Texas before Paul Rhoads showed up? If you answered never, you'd be right. Iowa State had NEVER beat Texas before Coach Rhoads, so for this team to go down to Austin to beat then ranked #19 Texas was incredible. They revealed all of Texas's weaknesses for the world to see and beat the Longhorns for the first time in Cyclone history. Any time you pull a "first time ever" win, that's going to make the top five list of impressive accomplishments.
#3: 2009 @ Nebraska, 9-7. This is the incredible game which made Paul Rhoads a YouTube sensation and national figure. The famous "I'm so proud," video showing a locker room celebration came after beating a ranked Nebraska team in Lincoln - the first time I-State beat Nebraska in Lincoln since 1977. The 9-7 win came with a back up QB playing his first game, a back up RB starting his first game, and with nearly half the team suffering severe stomach flu. The defense forced 8 turnovers for them to beat the 18.5 point favorite. The next season, the Cyclones would be huge underdogs only to lose a close game in overtime when they mis-connected on a surprise 2 point conversion that would have made it two in a row.
#4: 2011 vs Iowa, 44-41 (3 OT). No one gave Iowa State much of a chance based on the first two meetings Paul Rhoads had against the in state rivals, but Iowa State put together an incredible 4th quarter comeback and won in triple overtime. Any time you win a rivalry game it's a big victory, and the first two Iowa won by an almost combined 60 points, making this win even more surprising - and the Cyclones left a lot of points on the field in this game. This was one of the glaring "check list items" left undone going into season three, but Rhoads would pull this off and beat the defending Big East champions the next week.
#5: 2009 vs Minnesota (bowl game), 14-13. This bowl game is only the third bowl win in Cyclones history, and led to a winning season in Paul Rhoads first season. Only two other coaches in Iowa State history (over 115 years) could claim a .500 or better record in season one. The victory created a winning season for a team that won only 5 games combined the two seasons previous.
Honorable Mentions: There are several games that could be mentioned as runner ups, and that extremely close loss to Nebraska in overtime in 2010 might even qualify. But here are some great Paul Rhoads wins that are worth noting because of how bad a shape I-State was left in back in 2009 when Rhoads took over and what he's accomplished before even getting all his recruits, coaches, and support into place.
The next 4 honorable mentions:
- 2010 vs Texas Tech 52-38. Iowa State was an underdog for this game in Ames, as well, but the defense, offense, and special teams went off for an incredible victory over a strong Tech team that would go bowling that year.
- 2009 vs North Dakota State 34-17. North Dakota State is a 1-AA team, but it might be worth noting they're a "giant slayer" as not including Iowa State they're 4-2 against 1-A teams since 2006 beating Ball State, Minnesota, Kansas, and Central Michigan. Their two losses were only by 4 points combined, making I-State's 17 point win actually look pretty good in comparison.
- 2010 vs NIU 27-10. Northern Illinois would go on to be 10-3, and Iowa State beat them with the largest margin of victory by far and away.
- 2011 @ UConn 2011 24-20. Not only did they beat the defending Big East champs on a short week, but they did so on the road and avoiding the post game hangover after beating rival Iowa the week before.