AMES – Jeremiah George didn’t want to take off his jersey and pads. Who could blame him?
The senior captain and his Iowa State teammates trounced Kansas 34-0, earning their first Big 12 victory of the season Saturday night.
“If I could, I would go home in sleep in (my pads),” George said. “Man, you guys don’t know how good this feels.”
In the middle of everything on a frigid Saturday night was George. Playing in front of the home crowd for the last time, he played his best football of the season.
During the third quarter alone, George made three impressive plays to halt Jayhawk drives. On Kansas’ second possession of the half, the Clearwater, Fla. native stripped James Sims to force a turnover.
Later, George sniffed out a screen and stuffed a draw on third downs – both for losses – to stop Kansas. George finished with a game-high 14 tackles.
“He’s a guy that’s worked hard to do everything right because he understands and recognizes what’s right in this program,” Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. “And he delivers that to all of this teammates. He has great value to this football program.”
George’s play epitomized the inspired effort by the Cyclones, especially from the seniors. Jacques Washington added to George’s big game with 13 tackles of his own. Iowa State held the Jayhawks to just 279 yards of total offense.
The shutout was the Cyclones’ first in the Big 12 since a 41-0 win over Baylor in 2001.
“Shutouts just don’t exist anymore,” Rhoads said. “If you shutout anybody, you’ve played phenomenal defense and our guys did tonight. Wally (Burnham) is the one that leads the charge.”
With the defense dominating, the offense more than did its part. Grant Rohach played his best game in Cardinal and Gold, completing 15-of-20 passes for 300 yards and two TD’s.
The freshmen set the tone in the first quarter when he evaded pressure and threw a strike to Aaron Wimberly for a 58-yard score.
“I had faith Wimberly was going to go get that ball no matter where I put it,” Rohach said.
From there, Rohach played efficient football and let his tailbacks do some damage. Seniors Shontrelle Johnson and James White both scored TD’s and Iowa State piled up 502 yards of total offense, including 202 yards on the ground.
“On a night like this, you play a little different,” Rhoads said. “You have a little extra something about you.”
There’s no question this season didn’t go as planned, but give Iowa State credit. The Cyclones never quit. They never quit on Rhoads, each other or a fan base that hopes for better days ahead.
That says a lot about the future of this program.
The victory doesn’t begin to erase the sour 2013 season, but that doesn’t matter. The Cyclones are playing for 2014 now. Led by a phenomenal effort from its seniors, perhaps momentum is finally tilting in Iowa State’s favor.
Senior backs shine
It was only fitting. With the Cyclones rolling over Kansas, it was the senior running backs who were carrying the load.
Shontrelle Johnson, James White and Jeff Woody starred on Saturday. Johnson led the charge with 84 yards and 23-yard touchdown scamper in the fourth quarter.
“It was a heartwarming feeling to end on a high note and get a win,” Johnson said.
White also got in the end zone, punctuating his career with a 5-yard TD and 33 yards. Woody capped the night with 24 fourth-quarter yards of his own.
“There were so senior moments out there tonight,” Rhoads said. “Shontrelle’s run, James’ run, and Jeff finishing the game.”
This season didn’t go as planned, but Woody is happy the Cyclones ended with a win in front of the home crowd.
“Well I know I’m going to remember this game,” Woody said. “The old Ice Bowl where we might have been better with blades than cleats.”
– Official attendance was 54,081, although the real attendance was closer to 30,000 brave souls.
– The kickoff temperature of eight degrees was the coldest in Iowa State history. It was 92 degrees at kick for the season opener.
– Senior Justin Coleman led Iowa State with eight catches for 78 yards. Quenton Bundrage had three catches for 63 yards and a score.
– Iowa State improved to 21-2 under Paul Rhoads when leading at halftime.
– Jansen Watsen snagged his first career interception for Iowa State.
– Kirby Van Der Kamp has pinned 98 career punts inside the 20-yard line.