AMES, Iowa — There are some trends Iowa State football coach Paul Rhoads likes about his Cyclone football team.
He definitely likes the fact ISU is 3-0 after completing its non-conference schedule Saturday night with a 37-3 win over Western Illinois at Jack Trice Stadium, the sixth time in Cyclone history they’ve started 3-0.
Rhoads liked the 504 total yards his Cyclone offense put up against the Leathernecks, and the 178 they only allowed.
Having 55,783 fans pack Jack Trice, the fourth largest crowd in stadium history, fires him up.
But with two weeks to prepare for its Big 12 opener at home against Texas Tech, Iowa State has plenty of room for improvement. On the forefront of Rhoads agenda of improvement is turnovers.
The Cyclones were a minus-3 against Western Illinois Saturday, and are a minus-3 for the season. The minus-3 against the Leathernecks marked the second time this season ISU has lost the turnover battle but won the game.
A year ago, three of the Cyclones six victories came in games they lost the turnover battle.
“God bless us,” exclaimed Rhoads. “We win more games losing the turnover battle than any team in America.”
One thing Rhoads truly believes in is there is plenty of time to get better.
“I’ve said it before, I don’t agree your most improvement comes from week one to week two,” Rhoads added. “We are going to set out to see how much improvement we can make in the open week and in the week’s preparation for the Texas Tech football game.”
The Cyclones themselves know there is plenty of things they can do better.
While quarterback Steele Jantz’s play has been markedly improved over that of last year, he still has turned the ball over five times - four interceptions and one fumble – and says that has to get better.
“The bye week is going to be huge,” said Jantz who has battled turnover issues before, he had eight in his first four games as a starter a season ago and 17 in 12 career games. “We’ll look at the film, look at the first three games and kind of find out what we need to improve on, which is a lot of things and just focus on that the next two weeks.”
While the offense looks to shore things up, there has been little to fault the defense over.
ISU didn’t allow a touchdown for the second consecutive game, something it had not done in back-to-back games since the end of the 1964 season (0-0 vs Arizona) and into the 1965 season (21-0 over Drake). The Cyclones allowed the Leathernecks just 178 yards of offense, the lowest single-game total since limiting Northern Iowa to 99 in 2004.
Senior linebacker Jake Knott, however, says there are plenty areas the Cyclones need to improve at defensively.
“We didn’t force any turnovers so we have to work on that,” Knott said. “We gave up three points, which credit Western Illinois, but we really would’ve like to keep that zero on the scoreboard.”
Rhoads for his part has been impressed with his defense’s play through three games.
“We’re really controlling things thus far, limiting big plays, tackling well and we’re playing good team defense,” he said. “When I say that, I’m talking about 11 guys working to do their job and not more than that.”
And while the Cyclones will nitpick and search for correctable things over the next two weeks one fact can’t be ignored – four of the last five Iowa State teams that began 3-0 went to bowl games.
©2012 Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (Waterloo, Iowa)
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