AMES — Leave it to Tom Farniok to tell it like it is.
The last two seasons?
“They’ve kind of stunk, I’m not going to lie,” ISU’s senior center and captain said Monday at the Bergstrom Football Complex.
The criticism received for the lack of success in that span?
“It comes with it,” said Farniok, who will lace up his cleats for his 46th career start — and last in Jack Trice Stadium — when West Virginia rolls into town for Saturday’s 11 a.m. Big 12 home finale. “You don’t win, you’ve got to expect it. Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you aren’t getting criticized for not winning games that means nobody cares about you, which, I think that would be worse.”
The Cyclones enter Saturday 5-17 the past two seasons, including a 2-14 mark in conference play.
Those types of results don’t approach ISU coach Paul Rhoads’ often-stated baseline goal of getting to and winning a bowl game each season — and he’s well-aware of that.
Ups and downs? Welcome to the world of a college coach.
“This is 26 years in the business,” said Rhoads who led the Cyclones to three bowls in his first four seasons and began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Utah State under Chuck Shelton. “My first three years at Iowa State as an assistant coach we went 3-8, 2-9, 1-10. So, yeah, if you’re in this business long enough you’re going to experience the lowest of lows and you’re going to experience the highest of highs. I’ve played on New Year’s Day multiple times. I’ve won conference championships. And I’ve finished at the bottom of the conference. It’s part of the profession.”
It’s also why Shelton set Rhoads straight about the key to longevity in the business early on.
“‘Part of being a football coach is being a survivor,’” Rhoads recalled Shelton sating. “I didn’t understand it at the time, nor did I really appreciate it. I was young, I was aggressive — ‘It’s not about that for me, I’m not going to have years or days like that.’ I thoroughly and fully understand exactly what he meant now and appreciate what he said — and appreciate him for surviving in the business as long as he did. Wins and losses are extremely important. Ultimately I’ll be hired and fired based on that everywhere I’ve been and here included. But my responsibilities are so far beyond that as far as teaching young men and helping them grow and mature and the feedback I get from guys that have been through my tutelage not just here but other places make it a very rewarding profession for me. So have I been through frustrating times before? Absolutely. And I will be in the future. But I’ll also be back up at the highest spots, too.”
The same goes for seniors, such as Farniok.
They’ve experienced one Big 12 win at home in the past two years — and it came when ISU throttled Kansas 34-0 last November on an almost sub-zero senior night. Needless to say, they need and plan to reprise (minus the cold) every element of that dominant performance to topple the Mountaineers (6-5, 4-4), who are a 13-point favorite.
“We have nothing else to play for,” said senior defensive end and captain Cory Morrissey, who grew up in Ames dreaming of playing for the Cyclones. “We’ve got to get the wins.”
The effort’s been there, but hasn’t always been focused. Sixty-minutes of execution must now accompany it.
That’s the lesson Farniok — who figures to have a strong shot to play on Sundays — wants most to impart on younger players going forward.
“Do little things right,” Farniok said. “You’ve got to care about doing little things right because I believe little things turn into big things. They’ll catch up with you sooner or later.”