Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads says he could get excited playing for a lollipop. The Cyclones will try to retain possession of the Cy-Hawk trophy on Saturday when they host the Iowa Hawkeyes in the 61st meeting in the series.
Both teams are off to alarming starts to the season but Rhoads does not feel that will take away from the excitement surrounding this game. “Whether you are an Iowa State graduate or University of Iowa graduate. whether you are a true 365-day supportive fan of one intuition or the other, you generally draw up sides in this game for the entire state,”Rhoads says. “So there’s great energy and emotion surrounding this football game. But absolutely no difference going into the game based on records for our first game or theirs I’m sure.”
Iowa State has been off since a 28-20 loss to UNI back on August 31st. Rhoads does not feel that loss has shaken the confidence level of his team. “You play the opener, you figure out what needs fixed, tweaked, so forth and that’s what our kids did,
Rhoads says. He says he would be concerned about the team’s state of mind if they hadn’t had good practices.
Rhoads says the Cyclones need to do a better job of stopping the run and it begins with sound gap coverage. “There’s only so man gaps on a football field — a gap being the space inbetween two offensive players — and you’ve got to be in that space, so we’re working hard to make sure everybody is in one of those gaps,” according to Rhoads.
He says the single most important thing on defense is tackling and in the UNI game they counted on two UNI touchdowns and they had 8 missed tackles. “You can’t do that and play good defense.”
ISU yielded 228 yards of rushing in the loss to UNI and must now try to slow down Iowa running back Mark Weisman, who has averaged 140 yards in the first two games. “I think he’s an outstanding football player and runningback. I think his numbers certainly back that up,” Rhoads says. He also says he believed Iowa’s offensive line would get better and they have and Weisman has benefited.
Rhoads says the Iowa State ground game also needs to make progress. “We were decent with a number of running plays in that game, but a lot of those running plays ended up in a funnel and the tackle was made easier by that,” Rhoads says. He says getting the players more in the open where they can make plays is important in this game and the rest of the season.
Rhoads says even in this age of conference expansion and the move to nine game league schedules there still is a place for a rivalry like this. He says there are a lot of schools who are not happy to see rivalries go away because of the conference games, but Rhoads says it seems natural to keep the Iowa game for any nonconference slot on the schedule.