Tides turn in favor of Rhoads and Co. over Hawkeyes


Photo: Rebekka Brown/Iowa State Daily

Quarterback Steele Jantz rushes past the Iowa defense during Saturday’s game at Jack Trice Stadium. Jantz threw 279 yards to help the Cyclones defeat the Hawkeyes 44-41 in triple overtime. The Cyclones will be back at home Saturday, Oct. 1 to take on Texas.

Jake Calhoun

Paul Rhoads was at a loss for words.

The third-year coach of ISU football found the old adage “third time’s a charm” to hold every bit of truth as he witnessed Cyclone fans storm the field following his team’s triple-overtime upset of Iowa, 44-41, on Saturday in front of 56,085 fans — the second-largest attendance in ISU history.

“That kind of support is important to the kids because of the hard work they put in year-round,” said Rhoads, whose Cyclones had been outscored by Iowa by a combined 70-10 the past two seasons.

The story of the game for the Cyclones, who improved to 2-0 for the first time since 2006, was rooted in the play of ISU quarterback Steele Jantz, who completed 25-of-37 passing for 279 yards and threw for four touchdowns in the game against the favored Hawkeyes (1-1) in just his second start in an ISU uniform.

A week removed from a shaky performance that saw him completing less than 50 percent of his passes and throwing three interceptions, Jantz said the biggest change for him was that he managed to learn from his performance last week.

“When I do things [badly] and I make mistakes, I try and make it the last time that’s going to happen,” Jantz said. “I’m the type of guy that really learns from mistakes. I am sure that there were a lot of little mistakes from this game that I will learn from.”

After the game, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was humbled by the Cyclones’ play and the game in general.

“[Iowa State] played a heck of a football game today and clearly deserved to win this football game,” Ferentz said. “They did a great job and we’re disappointed.”

Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg also got his first start in a Cy-Hawk rivalry game, with numbers that held up on their own. The Keokuk native went 16-of-28 with 207 passing yards and two touchdowns, but could not make big enough plays in crunch time.

“I was just trying to concentrate on the next series,” Vandenberg said. “Their offense and defense played great all day. Our guys battled as hard as we could, we came up just a little short.”

The Cyclones outplayed the Hawkeyes in nearly every facet of the game, having the edge in all but four statistical categories — fumbles, penalties, time of possession and red-zone scoring.

The biggest difference for the Cyclones between this week’s win and last week’s 20-19 victory over Northern Iowa was the approach they had taken going into this game.

“We just came with a different attitude, we just came out with a different mentality,” said senior left tackle Kelechi Osemele. “We got challenged, we didn’t like the way coach Rhoads said we didn’t perform well, we just kind of played with a chip on our shoulder. We just responded as a unit.”

The ISU offense’s “jet tempo” was more clearly executed against the Hawkeyes than it was in last week’s win, as the Cyclones went on to out-gain the Hawkeyes 473-365 in total offense.

“Last week, we didn’t get a chance to get the offense in a flow,” said running back Shontrelle Johnson. “Once we got flowing and the offense started gelling together, passes [were] being completed and a couple runs here and there, the crowd was able to see what our offense was capable of doing.”

Johnson, a true sophomore at running back, eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the first time in his collegiate career, rushing for 108 yards off 18 carries while averaging six yards per carry.

“He ran hard; he feels sick about putting the ball on the ground and acknowledged that at halftime to his teammates,” Rhoads said of Johnson. “He’s a very violent runner for his stature, he runs hard. He’s got great balance, a quick step, but he just was a driving force for our football team today.”

This was the first time in Cy-Hawk series history that a game went into overtime, a task that was physically draining for both teams on both sides of the ball.

“When it came down to it, to execution, a lot of guys can execute, but doing it while you’re tired is a different story,” Johnson said. “That jet tempo, those guys were tired toward the end of the game.”

As for the interim Cy-Hawk trophy, it turned out to be the last thing on the minds of the Cyclone players after a sentimental victory like that.

“I thought they just made it [of several pieces],” Osemele joked. “By the time I saw it, it was already in pieces.”

Regardless of the jesting that followed with the interim trophy, the victory still meant the world to an ISU team that had not had much recent success against its archrival.

“The Cyclone nation showed up to help share in that victory,” Rhoads said. “The opportunity to share [the victory] with our kids and to have their hands on that trophy and bring it back home to Ames, it is a joy difficult to describe.”