AMES — Last Friday, I wrote that at 3 p.m. on Saturday, fans would likely have a pretty decent clue as to how the 2014 Iowa State football season would go.
Now, you know.
I am not a pile on and kick em’ while they’re down type of guy. It isn’t my style. It never has been. It never will be. From that standpoint, what fans saw on Saturday was one game of 12. Iowa State will absolutely be a lot better in October than it is right now, as should every team in the country.
But having said that, an FCS team that had to replace 12 starters and eight coaches waltzed into Jack Trice Stadium this weekend and manhandled a Big 12 football program.
Losing to North Dakota State is one thing. There is a reason why offshore oddsmakers only made Iowa State 3.5 point favorites going into this one. There is a reason why a handful of experts around the country picked North Dakota State to win the game. There is a reason why this program has won three straight FCS championships and with that, 25 games in a row. But being physically dominated for three quarters of football is another story. That is what went down on game one of the 2014 season. It was eerily similar to that of a year ago when the Cyclones went down at the hands of UNI, another FCS opponent.
I believe that every rational Iowa State fan that entered Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday knew there was a chance that the Cyclones could lose the game. After all, North Dakota State is really good. Nobody ever doubted that.
However, this is where the present day of Iowa State athletics and this football program’s lackluster history are coming to a crossroads. Fifteen years ago, Iowa State fans could have handled the above scenario. Rationally, it really does make sense that Iowa State lost that game on Saturday. Ask a Kansas State program – who lost to the same team in its opener a year ago – yet still found its way to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
But this truly isn’t your father’s Iowa State anymore. When Jamie Pollard took over as athletics director just under 10 years ago, he talked relentlessly about changing the culture.
Guess what: Pollard has been successful in that mission. Fans, who are giving more (our of their own bank accounts) than they have ever before, see construction going on all around Jack Trice Stadium. Facilities are no longer a major detriment to the program. The Big 12 appears to be on solid ground. Enrollment is at an all-time high. Season ticket sales continue to be as strong as ever.
Thanks to basketball and the early Rhoads years, this generation of Iowa State fans have tasted success. Across the board, the Cyclone Nation is giving more every year and as a result, expectations are higher than ever, and rightfully so.
Everywhere you look around Iowa State, things are improving.
Did you see an improved football team in a 34-14 loss on Saturday?
This is where the venom is coming from.
Within an athletic department, football is the cash cow. Football is the only reason why 60 thousand (or more if you count tailgaters who don’t attend games) passionate wearers of the cardinal and gold would ever get together at one place at one time.
Second quarter on, that team looked as unorganized as a middle school student council meeting.
Iowa State’s season is certainty not over. There is little doubt in my or any rational mind that this team will improve a lot between now and December. But by how much?
I’m no meteorologist, but the weather forecast around Ames right now is calling for mostly cloudy skies and a high percentage of severe weather.
Incremental improvement is nice, but as losses pile up, hope dwindles.
The only way for Paul Rhoads to tame this oncoming storm is to win football games.
Period. End of story.