With plenty of question marks heading in the Iowa State Cyclones get ready to open a new season on Saturday night when they host UNI. The Cyclones will feature 12 new starters in the opener.
“There’s no mistaking that we’re young and inexperienced, but as you get on the field and you start to mature through snaps, I’ll be anxious to see how much this team grows,” ISU coach Paul Rhoads.
The Cyclones have played in two straight bowl games and Rhoads says the next step for the program is to play winning football in the Big-12. Rhoads says they are recognized by most as a team that plays smart and overachieves. He says they have to do more than overachieve and start to win more games than they lose in league play to change their perception.
After a mild start to pre-season workouts Rhoads will try to use this week to get the Cyclones acclimated to the soaring temperatures. He says the first two opponents have been practicing in the same weather, so there is no advantage.
A young ISU front seven on defense will try to slow down UNI running back David Johnson who piled up more than a thousand yards and 13 touchdowns in 2012. “He’s an outstanding football player who has really come on strong,”Rhoads says. He says they looked at him coming out of high school and they know what he is capable of.
Rhoads is also concerned about Panther quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen, who passed for more than 2,400 yards and 21 touchdowns as a freshman. The last time these teams met the Cyclones rallied for a 20-19 victory in the 2011 opener.
Rhoads expects another close game. “UNI, they know how to win football games,” he says. Rhoads says you only have to look at the number of playoff games and postseason honors the Panthers have gained to understand how good they are.