Bye week benefits team in second 3-0 stint


Photo: Randi Reeder/Iowa State D

Linebacker A.J. Klein takes down Tulsa running back Alex Singleton during the first quarter of the season opener. Iowa State defeated Tulsa 38-23 on Saturday, Sept. 1, at Jack Trice Stadium. 

Jake Calhoun

Iowa State has been receiving votes in the AP Top 25 poll for the past three weeks, but don’t tell coach Paul Rhoads that.

Rhoads, the fourth-year coach of ISU football, said he tried to use the possibility of being ranked as motivation for his team when it was in the exact same position at being 3-0 last year as it geared up to open conference play against Texas.

The Cyclones lost a 37-14 contest — which saw a 34-0 lead by the Longhorns at halftime — to serve as the blueprint for what not to do this season when the expectations are as heightened as they are.

“In my opinion, that Texas game crowd was the best it’s been since I’ve been here at the start of that game,” Rhoads said at his weekly news conference on Monday. “And we laid an egg and weren’t able to take advantage of playing at home.”

The bye week before that game and the week leading up to it, Rhoads said, were not adequate preparation for the Big 12 opener.

As the team prepares for its conference opener against Texas Tech on Saturday, things will be different.

“Last year, we kind of took the bye week off,” said free safety Jacques Washington. “Last week we had three good practices, and we had a good practice [on Sunday]. We’re a mature team from last year; I think we’re going to handle business out there.”

After the first time it started 3-0 in consecutive seasons since 1999-2001, Iowa State will be vying for its first 4-0 start since 2000.

The team had actually figured out its bye week woes last season, utilizing the week before the biggest upset in school history — a double-overtime victory against then-No. 2 Oklahoma State.

“It was more of an approach and an attitude,” said nose tackle Jake McDonough. “This year, I think we’re well on our way to having one of our better bye weeks. We’ve approached it really well and the guys are more prepared.”

Also with a win comes the possibility of being ranked in the top 25, something Rhoads knows is on his players’ minds. However, Rhoads said he doesn’t need to motivate his players by reminding them of that since they are focusing on starting Big 12 play on the right foot.

“We don’t look at it as a goal; we don’t go out each week to play to say, ‘Oh, if we win this game, we’ll be in the top 25,’ because in this day in age in college football, rankings don’t mean much,” said senior linebacker A.J. Klein. “That’s proven every single week.

“It’s all perception of who thinks who is better, and I think as a team, we know what our expectations are, and we know the kind of team that we can be going into this conference play.”

Iowa State has not been ranked in the top 25 since 2005.

As for last season’s crowd in the Big 12 opener, which saw the second-largest attendance in school history with 56,390, Washington said fans can expect their efforts to not go for naught this time around.

“I think this week, we’ll probably have a larger crowd in school history with all the hype around this game with both teams being 3-0,” Washington said. “The atmosphere was live, and then they took us out of the game, so then it kind of just ruined the whole thing.

“We will keep the crowd in this game.”