Cyclones not overlooking FCS opponent


Defensive end Rony Nelson and linebacker Jake Knott celebrate on the field in the season opener against Tulsa. Iowa State defeated Tulsa 38-23 Saturday, Sept. 1, at Jack Trice Stadium.

Dean Berhow-Goll

ISU coach Paul Rhoads told his team he doesn’t want to put a ceiling on what it can do. 

The fourth-year coach of the ISU football team said he wants his players to improve every time they step onto the field, whether it be for practice or for a game.

“The statement … that ‘you get your most improvement from week one to week two,’ I think is a bunch of hogwash,” Rhoads said. “I think you have an opportunity to improve every week, and some weeks you’re going to have bigger games. That’s what we seek every time we step on the practice field.”

With Western Illinois from the Football Championship Subdivision coming Saturday night to Jack Trice Stadium, senior linebacker Jake Knott is making sure his team isn’t overlooking the Cyclones’ upcoming opponent. 

“Football is a game of inches, and sometimes they’re not going to go your way,” Knott said. “It doesn’t matter how talented they are or what league they play in, anybody can beat anybody, and you’ve got to be extremely focused to get past that.”

One thing Rhoads stressed was turnovers.

Last week in Iowa State’s 9-6 win against Iowa in Kinnick Stadium, Iowa State turned the ball over four times, three of which came inside the Hawkeyes’ 11-yard line. 

“We’ve won too many games losing the turnover battle and you’re just not going to keep doing that,” Rhoads said. “Correctable mistakes, already looked at them and have a better understand why. Of the four, I think one is a great play by their defense. The fumble on Shontrelle [Johnson], it’s a full-speed violent collision.”

The correctable mistakes Rhoads referred to stem from the play of quarterback Steele Jantz. Two interceptions and a fumbled exchange were overlooked by a quarterback rating of 121 and an emotional win at Kinnick. 

“The interceptions, we’ve got to handle, we’ve got to do a better job of and then the exchange is one,” Rhoads said. “The thing that excites me coming out of that is Steele Jantz understands that and will work to improve that.”

This will be one of the few games Iowa State goes into as the favored team to win. In Rhoads’ career as the ISU coach, he has won 20 games despite being favored in just eight. 

After a record-setting day at Jack Trice when 54,931 fans filled the stadium for the season-opening record, Rhoads still expects his “Cyclone Nation” to come and support the team. 

Last year, Iowa State started the season 3-0 en route to a bow bid. If the Cyclones can win Saturday night against Western Illinois, only three more wins will be needed to get a bowl bid as opposed to four, which is a bigger gap than it seems playing in the Big 12. 

“Huge,” Rhoads said referring to the 3-0 start at stake. “You look at years one through three and the two bowl seasons and what we did in nonleague. It goes a long way especially when you see what kind of competition we play week in and week out in the Big 12 for overall season success. So to have this opportunity to be fight for 3-0, we’re excited.”

Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.