The Iowa State Cyclones are ready for Thursday night’s season opener at home against Northern Illinois. Paul Rhoads is entering his second season as I.S.U.’s head coach and says like any season opener there are a lot of unknowns heading in. Rhoads says when you take the field there are a number of things that may come up that you don’t know how you will react to them.

The Cyclones finished 7-6 last season and Rhoads wants the offense to put more points on the board this season. He says 20 points a game is not acceptable, so the offense has had the charge to put up more points and he looks forward to them going out and doing it.

One reason for the optimism on offense is senior quarterback Austen Arnaud who will begin his third season as the starter. Rhoads says he is anxious for Arnaud to get out and play as his accuracy has been great in camp. He says having Alexander Robinson behind him helps and they are in a position for him to have success.

Northern Illinois is one of the favorites to win the Mid-American Conference and Rhoads says the Huskies will provide a tough opener. He says they are solid in every phase as they stop the run on defense and offense they run the ball well. Rhoads says they key on Thursday for a young Cyclone defense will be to slow down Northern Illinois’s power ground attack. He says you have to have people in the box and fill every gap, as they will try to exploit the gaps.

Running back Alexander Robinson topped the one thousand yard mark in 2009 and he has high hopes for the Cyclone offense. He says they have to execute and be consistent with their execution and they have the ability to put up a lot of points. Robinson says the offense will get a stern test from the Northern Illinois defense, which he says is fast and athletic and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.

The Huskies have been to bowls in their first two seasons under coach Jerry Kill and they enter this season with lofty expectations. Kill says they’ve been through the preparation and are ready to throw the kids out there and see what they have. He says you never know how they will react until they play.

Kill says they have built their success on a good defense, strong ground game and a low number of turnovers. He says they’ve always had that philosphy and continue to emphasize them. He says some years you get them and some years you don’t.