AMES, — Starting 3-0 isn’t new for the Iowa State football team.
In fact, the Cyclones are 3-0 after completing their non-conference slate for the second consecutive season.
Getting to 4-0, however, has been difficult and last year’s attempt was an absolute nightmare.
Despite having two weeks to prepare for Texas, the Cyclones committed three first-quarter turnovers and had a blocked punt returned for a touchdown as they fell behind the Longhorns 34-0 at halftime.
Then they saw most of the second-largest crowd in Jack Trice Stadium history — 56,390 — leave by the end of the third quarter of a 37-14 loss.
It was also the start a four-game losing streak.
“In my opinion, that Texas game crowd was the best it’s been since I’ve been here ... and we laid an egg,” Cyclone head coach Paul Rhoads said.
The vibe was loose and easy going in preparation for that Texas game, but times have changed.
Fast forward a year later and ISU faces a similar situation as it prepares to host undefeated Texas Tech (3-0) at Jack Trice Saturday.
The Cyclones have had two weeks to prepare for a Red Raider squad that features a defense ranked No. 1 in the nation in total defense and an offense that ranks No. 2 in total offense.
To a man, ISU’s players said the team used last week’s bye much better.
“We probably didn’t have our best week of practice and it showed out on the field with a bunch of mistakes,” junior safety Jacques Washington said of last year’s approach to the Texas game. “I think last week we had three good practices and had a good practice yesterday. I think we are a more mature team from last year and we’re going to handle business Saturday.”
Defensive tackle Jake McDonough compared last week’s body of work by the Cyclones to the one they had leading up to their 2011 upset of Oklahoma State.
“Guys are wanting to work and we’ve improved a lot, I feel,” McDonough said.
Rhoads said last year’s humbling defeat and ensuing losing streak was a hard lesson learned.
“A lot of our players have been down this road and it is a lot of players who contributed to that loss and four-game losing streak,” Rhoads said. “I remarked about our maturity and experience and I think it showed yesterday during our team meeting and when we went out to our practice field.
“I told them we can either go repeat history or we can change it, rewrite it ourselves, and I think that is the mindset that we are approaching the week with.”
Iowa State hasn’t started a season 4-0 since 2000, which also happens to be the last time the Cyclones finished above .500 in Big 12 play (5-3) as part of a 9-3 season.
What another 4-0 start would mean to ISU is obvious, according to Rhoads.
“First of all, it puts you another game closer to bowl-eligibility,” Rhoads stated. “That is one of the objectives for this team, and it (a 4-0 start) would continue to build more confidence for our football team.
“Beyond that, I don’t know if it has any stronger ramifications at this point.
“We’d just love to start the Big 12 season with a victory.”
BUNDRAGE QUESTIONABLE: Quenton Bundrage, a redshirt freshman wide receiver who is No. 2 behind Chris Young on the depth chart, is questionable for Saturday’s game after being cited for providing alcohol to minors over the weekend.
“There is no update,” Rhoads said on the situation. “We are gathering information on that and more will be available as the week goes.”
Bundrage has one catch for 13 yards in ISU’s first three games.
TCU GAME: Iowa State’s game Oct. 6 at Texas Christian will kick off at 2:30 p.m. and be televised on Fox Sports Net.
©2012 Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (Waterloo, Iowa)
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