After two year absence, ISU football hopes to return to bowl game

From left: Soccer goalkeeper Ann Gleason, football quarterback Austen Arnaud, volleyball setter Kaylee Manns Graphic by: Kyle Foote

From left: Soccer goalkeeper Ann Gleason, football quarterback Austen Arnaud, volleyball setter Kaylee Manns Graphic by: Kyle Foote

Luke Plansky

Iowa State football fans do not expect one-loss seasons or Big 12 Championships.

But after a 3-9 season is it unrealistic to hope for a bowl game? The Cyclones haven’t been to a bowl since the 2005 Houston Bowl which they lost 27-24 to Texas Christian University.

“If there is a noticeable improvement in our football team, you’ll see it,” said Gene Chizik, who enters his second season as head coach. “Obviously, it would be nice to go to a bowl game, and we would like to be able to give that to our fans. So to ask if that is out of the realm of hope, no, I don’t think it is at all, and if I was a fan paying money to come see these guys play, I’d hope that’s where they were going too.”

Despite the team’s 3-9 record, the improvement and competitiveness the team showed over the course of the season allows for optimism this fall, though the Cyclones are again picked by most media pundits to finish last in the Big 12 North.

This is probably due to the lack of consistency in the team last year. Bowl hopes were lost last September with a 1-3 start in nonconference play. After a 53-point loss to Texas, Iowa State played tough games with Oklahoma and Missouri, but lost both. The Cyclones then won back-to-back games over Kansas State and Colorado.

Chizik said he thought a lack of confidence, attention to detail and focus were to blame for the team’s inconsistency. He feels they have solved these problems, however, and is unconcerned by others’ low expectations.

“It’s kind of about growing up,” he said. “You’re always worried about what everybody thinks, you’re going to do what everybody else wants you to do. I don’t subscribe to that theory. I subscribe to the theory of this is who we are and this is who we want to be.”

Who the Cyclones are right now is a bit of a mystery, however. Graduation left several holes in the lineup, as well as a lack of proven playmakers on offense and defense.

Two four-year starters are gone — quarterback Bret Meyer and wide receiver Todd Blythe — as well as defensive tackles Athyba Rubin and Bryce Braaksma, linebackers Alvin Bowen and Jon Banks, and kicker Brett Culbertson.

Iowa State averaged 18.2 points per game last season, which ranked 111th out of 119 Div. I teams. On top of that, Iowa State is the only team in the Big 12 that isn’t returning its starting quarterback. Sophomore quarterbacks Austin Arnaud and Phillip Bates are tasked with reviving the offense and will rotate in under center until a starter is established.

Arnaud, who saw action in six games last season, was named the starter for Thursday night’s season opener against South Dakota State, but Bates will also get an opportunity to lead the offense.

Chizik indicated that the team will ride the hot hand until a starter is established, but he is unsure how that will translate into playing time for each player.

“I don’t know how it will unfold. The bottom line is that we know both are going to play,” he said. “So for me to say it will be 50-50, or 60-40, or 30-70, that would be speculation.”

The quarterback change is part of an overall youth movement. Twenty-three underclassmen are on the two-deep depth chart, and Chizik warned the media to get ready for new names in the lineup.

“It’s a new era of new change and new jerseys. We’ve got new faces, new everything,” Bates said. “We’re trying to make a change, and this is going to be a changed place.”