The 2011 Iowa State Cyclones are a team defined by its streaks, an overachieving group of players that overcame a daunting schedule and an unlikely season that included a win which shook up the national championship conversation.
The season began with the Cyclones pulling out a last-minute escape over in-state powerhouse FCS powerhouse Northern Iowa. Junior quarterback Steele Jantz led the Cyclones on a game-winning touchdown drive.The next week, Jantz had his best performance of the season against the Iowa Hawkeyes by completing 67.8 percent of his passes for 267 yards and four touchdowns. All were season-highs for Jantz. From there, the season went downhill for Jantz.
The Losing Streak
Jantz won his final start of the season against the Huskies on Sept. 16., despite throwing three interceptions in his first four passes and the Cyclones improved to 3-0. However, their 3-0 start was cut down by four game losing streak against a string of strong Big 12 opponents.
Throughout losses to Texas, Baylor, Missouri and Texas A&M, Jantz completed just 50 percent of his pass attempts and threw four touchdowns to three interceptions. Jantz was finally benched in favor of freshman Jared Barnett after struggling to complete a pass against Texas A&M.
Jared Barnett Takes Over
In Barnett’s first start against 20th ranked Texas Tech the Cyclones rode their rushing attack to its first victory in a month. The Cyclones rushed for 368 yards and held possession of the ball for more than 40 minutes to defeat Texas Tech, 41-7. Barnett put up pedestrian passing numbers in his debut but used his mobility to gain another 92 yards on 19 carries.
After squeaking out a win over the 2-7 Kansas Jayhawks, second-ranked Oklahoma State’s swashbuckling offense came riding into Jack Trice Stadium with national championship aspirations within their grasp. After falling behind 24-17 in the second half, Iowa State scored 17 unanswered points to tie the game at 24 in the fourth quarter.
Oklahoma State shanked the potential game-winning field goal and Iowa State responded by intercepting Heisman Trophy contender Brandon Weeden in the second overtime. It took three plays for Iowa State to stuff the ball into the endzone and to deliver the biggest win in program history. Backup running back Jeff Woody delivered the final dagger on a 4-yard touchdown un right up the gut of Oklahoma State's defense. Barnett also delivered the best passing performance of Iowa State’s season. Barnett threw for 376 yards and three touchdowns while tacking on an extra 84 yards rushing. The victory also made Iowa State bowl eligible.
Cyclones Plummet Back to Earth
The Cyclones were unable to replicate their success against top-15 teams Oklahoma and Kansas State. The Sooners had too much talent for Iowa State and handily defeated them 26-6. The next week, Iowa State lost by a touchdown to Kansas State. The game was tied until the Cyclones scored a go-ahead touchdown with 3:29 seconds left in the fourth. Iowa State’s offense drove the offense into Kansas State territory but was stuffed on fourth and two at the Kansas State. Despite the loss head coach Paul Rhoads was excited about his team’s development.
"This is the No. 11 team in the BCS," Rhoads said, "and with 1:07 to go, we're driving down to tie the game and send it into overtime." via ESPN.com
Overall, the Cyclones were a team better than their 6-6 record indicated. Five of Iowa State’s six losses came against ranked teams and the Cyclones rushing attack was 35th best in the nation. After watching its previous head coach Gene Chizik leave Ames, Iowa for Auburn despite going 5-19 in two seasons, Iowa State locked Rhoads down with a 10-year, $20 million contract extension.
Rutgers may have a better record but the Cyclones have been tested week in and week out during the season against a superior schedule. Moreover, Iowa State beat the teams they were supposed and hope to continue their program’s rise with a win over the Scarlet Knights in Yankee Stadium on Friday.