By Kirk Haaland, CycloneFanatic.com Blogger Last week, CycloneFanatic.com published a lot of all-decade content concerning Iowa State athletics. Today, I really want to take a step back for just for a moment to consider how differently the ISU football program is viewed now than at the beginning of this decade that will be bookended by two Insight bowls. In 2000, Iowa State hadn’t seen a bowl game since the 70’s and had never won a bowl game. In the past 10 seasons, including that year, the Cyclones will have played in six bowl games.
Think about that for a moment. How attitudes and cultures have changed to a point where bowl games are now the expectation and mostly the norm—especially if two years of Eugene Chizik ineptitude can be stricken from the record. In 2000, Iowa State was somewhat passed over from “higher-up” bowl games based off of record, no one could take away the utter joy that was met with an estimated 30,000 Cyclone fans in Phoenix.
So let’s do a then-and-now look at some key aspects of that game and project a little bit into the future about the upcoming contest in Tempe with Minnesota.
Then: Attendance for the game was reported as 41,813 with an estimated 30,000 of them being Cyclone fans. Thursday Prediction: Expect much of the same only to a smaller scale. With excitement for a bowl game that would only be rivaled by the original version of Iowa State to the Insight bowl and Minnesota having been to the Insight in what will be three of the past four seasons, Iowa State should again be the overwhelming majority. Around 8,500 tickets were sold through the ISU ticket office and I suspect another 7,000 or so ISU fans will acquire tickets through different means, for 16,000 or so Cyclone fans in attendance.
Then: The Big 12’s leading rusher on the season, Ennis Haywood was only able to muster 74 yards on 21 carries and a single TD.
Thursday Prediction: Alexander Robinson who finished the season as the third leading rusher in the Big 12 will score one touchdown and topple the 125 yard plateau on 25 carries or less.
Then: Antonio Bryant and Pitt struck first in 2000 with a 72-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.
Thursday Prediction: The Cyclones will be the first team to reach the endzone with a three-yard run from Austen Arnaud.
Then: Reggie Hayward earned defensive MVP of the game. I cannot tell you why because finding defensive stats for a game from 2000 has proven to be near impossible. I’m sure he played well though.
Thursday Prediction: Jesse Smith will earn defensive MVP honors in his final outing as a Cyclone notching 10 tackles, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
Then: Sage Rosenfels completed 23 of 34 attempts for 308 yards and two touchdowns.
Thursday Prediction: Austen Arnaud will complete 20 passes in 31 attempts for 227 yards and one touchdown.
Then: Marc Timmons intercepted the only pass of the game with 3:11 to go on the Cyclone 11-yard line as Pitt drove to tie the game. The interception all but sealed the game for the Cyclones.
Thursday Prediction: Leonard Johnson will make a similar game clinching interception in the final minutes, but it will not be the only ISU interception on the day.
Then: Chris Anthony caught five balls for 71-yards and two touchdowns, in what was an incredibly balanced day for the Iowa State receivers (Moses 5-63, Campbell 5-62, J Montgomery 3-51, Danielsen 3-33, Haywood 1-15, Banks 1-13).
Thursday Prediction: Marquis Hamilton will lead the way for Iowa State receivers with seven catches for 85 yards and a touchdown. Darius Darks, Josh Lenz, and Jake Williams will also chime in with three or four catches and 50ish yards each.
Then: In what was the signature play of the game, Jamaine Billups took his first ever punt return back 72 yards for an ISU touchdown at a crucial juncture. That punt return for a touchdown was the first in eight years for the Clones.
Thursday Prediction: David Sims will return a kickoff for a touchdown for the first time since Troy Davis in 1994 against Colorado.
Then: Final Score: ISU 37 Pitt 29
Thursday Prediction: Final Score: ISU 31 Minnesota 20
This will be my first ever bowl game attended in person and quite honestly, I can’t wait. At the time this is posted on the front page I will be beginning the lengthy road trip with my wife and brother, driving straight through to Tempe. I wish safe travels to all of you doing the same—by road or air—and a Cyclone victory for us to bring in the New Year. I hope to see many of you down there.
Inside Hilton Coliseum
Since the Cal game on Dec. 5 up to the Houston game on Jan. 3, Iowa State will have played just three games. I didn’t have the foresight to recognize this until the past few days, but this schedule has not been a great one for this team. Starting off the season with games sparsely played and practice time to improve would’ve been much more beneficial, in my opinion.
Nevertheless, it is the schedule and must be played out as is. A convincing win over Houston and an upset of Duke could springboard this team that is still learning how to win through the beginning part of the Big 12 schedule. A Big 12 schedule that starts off like murderer’s row with home games against the top two teams in the conference—and country—in Kansas and Texas and three road games with Nebraska, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma. If the Clones can go 2-3 in that stretch they’ll be in good shape. The win against Duke would be huge but it is certainly not a make-or-break game as far as NCAA Tournament hopes go. There is still a lot of season left along with a lot of opportunities to make some hay.
Trivia Time Last week’s question: Some easy Insight Bowl trivia. Who were the offensive and defensive MVP’s of the Insight Bowl in 2000? What circumstances forced Jamaine Billups to be put in to return a punt for the first time in his career on the punt that he returned for a touchdown in that game?
Answer: Sage Rosenfels was Offensive MVP and Reggie Hayward was Defensive MVP. JJ Moses was the normal punt returner and was “knocked a little woozy”.
This week: Other than the 2000 Insight.com bowl, what are the most points ever scored by ISU in a bowl game? How many? What was the bowl game? Who was the opponent? What was the final score?