AMES – Iowa State won by 34, racked up 504 yards of offense and dominated Western Illinois in every facet of the game on Saturday night.
It wasn’t enough for Paul Rhoads.
The Cyclones (3-0) whipped the Fighting Leathernecks 37-3, but with his team aiming for new heights this season, Rhoads wanted more.
“We put up a lot of good numbers, we did a lot of positive things, but we didn’t finish things to the level I would have liked to have done,” the fourth-year head coach said.
That’s called progress, Cyclone fans. Instead of being happy to chalk up another win, Iowa State has its eyes focused on the big picture – the Big 12.
“I don’t think you can ever be satisfied,” linebacker Jake Knott said.
The Cyclones weren’t after Saturday, despite its impressive start. In its first eight offensive snaps, Iowa State scored two touchdowns.
James White ignited the first touchdown drive with a 56-yard touchdown burst down the right sideline. Chris Young scored the first of his two touchdowns on the Cyclones’ next possession on a 16-yard TD from Steele Jantz.
Unfortunately for Iowa State, the hot start didn’t last. The offense lost its rhythm and Jantz missed open receivers.
“The reason we stalled was because we were shooting ourselves in the foot,” said Jantz, who finished 19-of-26 passing, but had two turnovers.
The defense made sure it didn’t matter. In another stifling effort, the Cyclones held Western Illinois to 178 total yards on 57 plays.
Linebacker Jeremiah George – who gave the defense a B+ grade – said his team’s success stems from their close bonds.
“We truly are a family,” George said.
“I know a lot of people say a defense, an offense or the team is a family, but we really are a family. We have inside jokes. We have a bunch of conversations outside of football that can just relax everybody. We somewhat bring that onto the football field. It just makes it fun. We are having fun out there, honestly.”
That’s easy to see, Jeremiah. Iowa State didn’t force any turnovers on Saturday, but the Fighting Leathernecks averaged just 3.1 yards per play.
Jantz sent the Cyclones into halftime with a 21-0 advantage when he found Young in the back of the end zone for another touchdown.
“I thought (Young) had a great game,” Jantz said. “He’s a great athlete. He’s a great receiver. He has gotten to a point where he really understands why we are doing things in the offense.”
The momentum carried over after the break. On perhaps his best throw of the night, Jantz threw a strike to Aaron Horne down the seam for a 22-yard touchdown.
The backups took over from there. DeVondrick Nealy tallied 70 yards on the ground in just nine carries. Rob Standard capped the scoring with a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
At 3-0 for the second-straight season, Iowa State will now get two weeks to prepare for its Big 12 opener against Texas Tech.
Even after Saturday’s dominant performance, Rhoads is sure the Cyclones have a lot to work before Sept. 29.
“I don’t agree that your most improvement comes from week one and week two,” Rhoads said. “We are going to set out and see how much improvement we can make in the open week and in the week’s preparation for the Texas Tech game.”
The Red Raiders better be ready.