Cyclones strive for consistency of approach against Hawkeyes


Tiffany Herring/Iowa State Daily

The Cyclones beat the University of Iowa Hawkeyes 20-17 on Sept. 13 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. The win was sealed by kicker Cole Netten’s field goal with two seconds remaining in the game. 

Max Dible

The annual Cy-Hawk showdown between Iowa State and Iowa is just another game — at least the way ISU coach Paul Rhoads approaches it.

The coach acknowledges that the matchup between his Cyclones and the visiting Hawkeyes, set for 3:45 p.m. Saturday inside Jack Trice Stadium, has a magnitude of meaning for players and fans alike.

But Rhoads takes exception to the notion that he or any other member of his program places more importance on beating Iowa than the other 11 challengers they stare down every season.

“That’s the furthest from the truth,” Rhoads asserted. “The UNI game was the most important game on the schedule last week because it was the game we were playing. The Iowa game is the most important game this week because its the game we’re playing. Toledo will be next week, and that’s not coach speak.

“You’ve got to win games. And if you’re not focused on the game you’re playing and able to move on … then you’re not going to be successful as a program.”

Iowa State’s goals extend beyond in-state bragging rights. The Cyclones have the opportunity to capitalize on a softer opening half of its schedule, which includes three home games — Northern Iowa, Iowa and Kansas — and two road tests against Toledo and Texas Tech.

Iowa is arguably the toughest opponent in that stretch. For the Cyclones to find success for the fourth time in five seasons against the Hawkeyes, their offense will have to be more efficient than it was against UNI.

Iowa State’s defense and the special teams unit’s record night returning punts helped the Cyclones start four first-half drives inside the UNI 50-yard line. Those four drives, however, produced only 10 points.

The lack of production was due in part to a Quenton Bundrage fumble, as well as inaccuracy on the part of kicker Cole Netten — who was the hero in the Cy-Hawk matchup last season, making a late-game field goal to seal the 20-17 victory but who missed two kicks last Saturday against the Panthers.

“Our offense, in my eyes, was kind of a good news, bad news story,” said ISU offensive coordinator Mark Mangino. “The good news is our kids were able to overcome adversity and make plays in key situations. The bad news is we created that adversity for ourselves, so we had to overcome our own mistakes. But everything is fixable.”

The offensive line also had its struggles against UNI, allowing four sacks and contributing to a rushing attack that fell well short of 100 yards gained.

The Iowa defense will present an even bigger challenge against the run, but right tackle Brock Dagel said that some of the noise around the Hawkeyes’ defensive line is just hype that can be overcome.

“Out on the outside, sure [Iowa’s defensive line] is good. Their two interior guys [Jaleel Johnson and Nathan Bazata], they’re good guys, but they’re not Carl Davis and they’re not Louis Trinca-Pasat [former Hawkeye players],” Dagel said. “There’s a lot of old guys on our offensive line, and we know what we’re going to get from them.”

Dagel added that he expects a jump in offensive line play from the team’s initial outing, especially with the expected return of starting right guard Daniel Burton from a knee injury that sidelined him in the first game.

“We were a little all over the place,” Dagel explained. “We had our ups and downs in really all areas of play, but I think it was a factor of the first game thing. Maybe some jitters here and there.”

Dagel said he believes the Cyclones will be able to stow those jitters Saturday, even despite what the Cy-Hawk showdown means throughout the state.

After all, as far as Iowa State is concerned, the Hawkeyes are just another opponent, and Saturday is just another game — for the most part.