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Football

enCYCLONEpedia: Gut punch recuperation

As the minutes and seconds ticked off and the North Dakota State Bison chants grew louder, I sat in my south endzone bleacher seat and thought, “why do I even bother?”

As fans, we kind of get the best and worst of it. When our team wins we celebrate and rejoice without having to have done anything to actually help the win, or put any of the work in. When our team loses, we still don’t put any of the work in, but we sit there helpless either in an avalanche of quiet or in a wave of anger. Either way, sitting through opposing team’s celebrations is a gut punch; especially FCS teams.

In two consecutive season openers the Cyclones have been shamed by a loss to a lower division team, and in both instances it didn’t exactly come off as a fluky game. Last year, UNI dominated the early going and enough later on to win. On Saturday, the Cyclones vaulted to a 14-0 lead that we all thought was what the doctor ordered.

A fast start on offense and keeping the Bison out of the endzone? Perfect. Or so we thought

I try not to get caught up in the week one overreaction. On Thursday, Texas A&M was pasting South Carolina and some seemed shocked because South Carolina was the “NUMBER NINE TEAM IN THE COUNTRY!”

Well, exactly how absurd is that considering the guess work and random voting that goes into the preseason rankings? There is still football to be played and results to shake out.

There are new offensive coaches throughout the football offices and young inexperienced players trying to lead the defense. Yet, those excuses fall on deaf ears, as they should in my opinion.

Some fans have started tuning up and gassing up their “Fire Rhoads” buses.  Predictably, yet admittedly, I’m running out of bullets in the chamber to refute the claims that fuel their campaign.

Rhoads will be demanded to be held accountable, and he should be. But accountability does not equal firing. Especially in week one. Turning up the heat on Paul Rhoads’s seat now won’t help anyone’s cause. Let’s see how the young team rebounds and how the offense can respond after a very poor two and a half quarters of football.

The season is not over, but it is a terrible start to what was hoped to be a rejuvenated season. Ask Kansas State last season when they faced a similar fate to the Bison. If it makes you feel any better, this is an NDSU program that was ranked by Sagarin to be better than all but three Big 12 teams in 2013.

Granted, there is no sugar coating another loss to an FCS program. Whether this FCS program is on a 25 game winning streak, a five game winning streak over FBS teams, or on the heels of three straight national titles there are no excuses.

The two biggest issues were that the ground game never got going and the defense never made a big play to swing the tide. The offense rushed for just 102 yards and 58 of them were from a scrambling Sam Richardson on pass plays. DeVondrick Nealy and Aaron Wimberly only accounted for 44 yards. You can win games while doing that on occasion, but you’ll lose them more often.

As for the defense, as the game wore on, they wore out. They were mostly solid throughout but gave up some decent gains at times. They gave up seven yard hitch routes on 3rd & 6 more than I would like to see but their biggest issue was they never made a play. Only one sack on the day and they never forced a fumble or corralled an interception to get a big stop and swing the momentum in a big way. By the end, their inexperience was matched by fatigue and morale.

The seconds were dwindling inside of a minute remaining while I was still in my seat next to my six year old daughter. She said to me, “I wish I had a remote control to change the score, I would give Iowa State one-thousand points.” I laughed, agreed, and noted, “That would probably be a record”.

That exchange reminded me of the answer to, “why do I even bother?” Despite the gut punches and embarrassment in losing to an FCS program again there is a reason for me, at least. The reasons are “37-31” and “19-10”. That reason probably isn’t all that different than why my dad took me to the Nebraska game in 1992. There was no earthly reason to cart an eight year old to watch the 2-7 Cyclones take on one of the nation’s hottest teams. I don’t remember how cold it was but it was cold enough for me to wear snow pants when there was no snow on the ground.

It’s corny and irrelevant to helping the situation, but that doesn’t make it less true. I’m guessing none of us cheer for Iowa State because they’re so successful we cheer for them because it is our school and/or our team.

That’s why I bother and I’ll bother again next week.

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