So that's that. The wild roller coaster that was the 2010 Football season is over for Iowa State fans. It's hard not to feel disappointed, honestly. After the Nebraska game I thought a Bowl Game was within our grasp. Alas, that was not to be. Still, I feel like Iowa State matured as a team over the last 4 months or so. While we didn't shatter any records, we're going to finish higher in the Big 12 North than expected. What did we learn this fall?
Wally Burnham is a Wizard
Three defensive games spring to mind this fall. At Texas, home against Nebraska, and home against Mizzou. Since I began watching ISU football in 2001 (when I started going to school there) I have never seen a defense that performed at such a high level as it did in these three games. It speaks of an enormous competence on the part of the Defensive Coaching staff. It's been said time and time again, but ISU just does not have the street cred to recruit the most talented players. We make do with the 2nd or even 3rd tier players and rely on teamwork. I'm excited that Jake Lattimer, AJ Klein, and Jake Knott all will return next fall, giving us a core of defensive players to lead the team.
Tom Herman needs to start from scratch with the Wide Receiver corps
No position group at Iowa State performed as far below my expectations as did the WR corps. In some ways the game against Missouri was a microcosm of the entire season for these guys. At times Jake Williams and Josh Lenz made a play, but by and large critical dropped passes were a body blow for the Cyclone Offense. How much of that can you blame on Arnaud and Tiller? It's hard to say, but good Wide Receivers make plays even with poorly thrown balls. Once they catch a ball they have the moves for YAC. They block for the other wide receivers. None of these things were executed very well this fall. It needs to be a point of concentration next spring and fall, no question. How do we know all these things are true? One stat says it all: Tight End Colin Franklin was the leading receiver for Iowa State in 2010.
More after the Jump
Talent is in the Pipeline
For various reasons (and very rarely because we were so far out in front that we could play 2nd and 3rd stringers) we got to see some of the younger talent this fall. A few names stand out for me. We have to begin with Shontrelle Johnson, who is likely to be the starting tailback next fall. He's fast, he makes people miss and he's just plain fun to watch. How is he as a receiver? That's less clear, but he's coming along nicely. This spring when I thought about Alexander Robinson leaving next year, I was a little sick to my stomach. Now I'm sad to see him go, but know that the Cyclones have someone to fill in for him.
Jerome Tiller and James Capello both impressed me during their (limited) stints on the field. Last fall watching Tiller fill in for Arnaud was a chancy proposition at best. This fall he looked like he'd grown up considerably in the meantime. He played mistake free football against UNI. He played his heart out against Mizzou, but the deck was stacked against him with WR's dropping passes. James Capello, on the other hand, we got to see on only a few snaps. On those few snaps he ran for a TD. It was in garbage time against Utah, but they'd been dominating the Cyclones for 3 quarters. It's certainly nothing to sneeze at. Bottom line, there's some interesting Talent coming online for ISU next fall, and we haven't even talked about Jared Barnett.
Paul Rhoads Continues to be a Coach We Want to Have
When I see Coach Rhoads bellowing on the sideline in support of his players, or his impassioned locker-room speeches or any of a dozen other actions, I get a warm fuzzy feeling in my gut about Iowa State Football. It's only a matter of time before this guy wins Big 12 Coach of the Year. I feel like for the first time that Iowa State can be known for something other than being a bottom feeder. He exudes emotion and leadership in ways Gene Chizik can only dream about. Even Dan McCarney never had this kind of respect from the fan base and team, certainly not within the first two years. Two years ago I said "Paul Who?" and shook my head in bewilderment at Jamie Pollard's choice for Head Coach. These days I have to wonder if we should worship JP as some kind of Prophet or Oracle.
The New Big 12
Pros: Fewer teams mean more money for Iowa State and more games on Television. Dan Beebe announced this fall that in 2012 all conference football games will be on TV. I can't say enough about how important that is. More games on TV means more snippets on SportsCenter and fewer recruits that mistakenly hear "Ohio State" when someone says "Iowa State" (Happens to me all the time).
Cons: Nine game conference round robin Schedule. The schedule was the enemy for Iowa State this year, that is almost certain to continue in years to come. With the rivalry game against Iowa remaining, that means that ISU needs to find at least 3, possibly 4 conference wins to get to a bowl game. Doable? Yes, but it's equally possible that heartache is in store. With Coach Rhoads at the helm, I'm content to sit back and wish him well, but I'm not buying any national championship tickets anytime soon.
Fan Support this Fall
10 games were on television available to people outside Iowa this fall. Two of them were on ABC. That's an unprecedented amount of exposure for the Cyclones. On top of that, we averaged over 48,000 attendee's at our home games. That may not sound like a lot compared to places like Texas and Nebraska, but it certainly beats how things were only a few years ago. Kudos to the many and varied fans of Iowa State, you did good this year.
As I close out my entries for the Fall of 2010, I can only look to the future with optimism. Too many times after the season was over, I felt like ISU had been run over with a tractor, repeatedly. This year, I feel there's cause for hope. Cause to believe that the future might be brighter than the past. The fans and players should not consider 2010 to be a failed season. In so many ways, it was not. The 2010 Cyclones did things no Cyclone had ever done before. Proved things no Cyclone has ever proved. That is their legacy, and as always, I'm Proud to be a Cyclone.