AMES — Cole Netten’s an enemy of excuse-making.
Yes, Iowa State’s generally ultra-accurate place kicker conceded, he would have ideally attempted a potential game-winning 32-yard field in Saturday’s 30-23 double-overtime loss at Toledo from the middle of the field, not the left hash mark.
But no, his lone miss in four attempts that night can’t be blamed on less-than-perfect placement.
“No excuse,” said Netten, whose fateful kick wafted wide left by inches. “It doesn’t matter. Left, right — it wasn’t a very long field goal.”
Netten’s been on both sides of the manic kicking spectrum. Just last season, his clutch career-long 47-yard boot gave the Cyclones a 20-17 win at Iowa. Saturday, he missed one at a key time. Continually asking why is fruitless.
Learn and move on.
“He was 18-for-18 (Tuesday) on the practice field and he was perfect again (Wednesday),” said Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads, whose team (1-2) kicks off Big 12 play at 11 a.m. Oct. 3 against Kansas. “Nailed a two-minute field goal from 54 yards out.”
It ain’t easy being under a microscope, but it’s what Netten signed up for. Embracing the role of place kicker requires extreme courage. Cornerbacks may occasionally be on “islands,” but kickers, well, their make-believe places of residence range from Tahiti to Siberia.
“A big thing in kicking is you’ve got to be fearless, because you know misses are going to come,” said Netten, who is 29 of 40 on field goals in his career. “It’s inevitable. They’re going to come. It’s how you respond, because you know misses are going to happen and you know you’ve got to still have confidence in yourself and you’ve got to go out and do your job the next play. So every play’s the most important play.”
So is backup. Rhoads implored his team not to point fingers after Saturday’s loss — and with at least 11 different players committing 14 penalties it’s unwise to designate one play (or player) as the cause for a second straight setback.
“He’s one guy of many that was on the playing field and as I told them in the locker room after, there’s not a guy on the team that doesn’t have a play that they’d like to take back from that game,” Rhoads said. “That’s what I told them to focus on.”
Netten said he’s put the kick behind him.
“What’s done is done,” he noted.
But how hard is it to truly move on; to bury the past, to escape from Siberia?
“That’s something that you’re not going to completely forget about for a while,” said Netten, who drilled the second longest field goal of his career, a 44-yarder, to give ISU a 23-20 lead in the first overtime. “But, yeah, essentially, because I knew that, you know, I mean, how much worse can it get? So might as well just go out there. You’ve just got to stay composed and relaxed and let just let your body do what it does.”
That means more work. No memory. Nine Big 12 games loom as opportunities, not obstacles.
“It’s tough,” Netten said. “You’ve got a lot of people saying stuff, but you’ve just got to shut it out. You’ve got to have confidence in yourself and you’ve just got to know that you’re a talented player and, you know, stuff happens. I think the team’s got confidence in me, too, and so does coach, so that helps out a lot, too.”
Mike Warren’s first career start Saturday came on short notice. How short exactly?
“I found out I would be starting the game on Friday, Friday night,” Warren said. “So it was kind of a surprise.”
His breakthrough performance wasn’t.
Warren rushed 21 times for 126 yards, becoming ISU’s first back to eclipse the 100-yard mark since Aaron Wimberly did it in a Nov. 22, 2014 loss to Texas Tech.
The Cyclones gained 207 yards on the ground to Toledo’s 171 — which meant they’d outrushed an opponent for the first time in the last 15 games.
“I feel like the run element really made us diverse,” said Warren, who’d rushed nine times for 28 yards in the previous two games. It helped the passing game a lot. One thing we’ve been trying to do is run the ball.”
ISU’s intent on sustaining that necessary growth in the ground game. Roads said Warren returned to the practice field Tuesday and Wednesday with even more vigor than he’d shown in the lead-up to Toledo.
“I knew he was going to have a good game and now he’s taken that and he’s practicing with a different step and his ability has ratcheted up to another level, which is extremely exciting,” Rhoads said.
Rhoads responded frankly when asked what it means to “learn how to win" — and if that’s necessary after suffering through back-to-back losing seasons.
Summary: Yes it is and it takes both mental and physical toughness to reverse that trend.
“In our (league), you’ve got a three-game non conference schedule is all you’ve got and you’re playing pretty dang good people every week when you come out,” Rhoads said. “So it’s hard to just come out and gain confidence through securing victories. You’ve got to go out there and work and ‘finding ways to win’ is actually a phrase that we’ve used this week in practice, because at times in our past, we’ve found ways to lose games and we’ve got to find ways to win. I’m a firm believer that’s in work and preparation and doing things right so many times that you can’t do them wrong.”