Saturday, November 21, 2015

It's Gone On for Way Too Long

This one's going to be bittersweet...or even sour.

I just got through flipping channels this afternoon and finding out that Iowa State blew a 35-14 halftime lead against Kansas State and...lost to the Wildcats, 38-35, on a fourth-quarter field goal by Jack Candele.

Last week, the Cyclones lost to Oklahoma State, 35-31...after enjoying a 24-14 halftime lead against the ranked Cowboys.

Paul Rhoads' club, here in 2015 alone, also coughed up games against Iowa and TCU despite having halftime or first-quarter leads. In addition, it lost to Toledo in overtime. (Never mind that the Horned Frogs have been in the Top 25 of both the Associated Press poll and the USA Today poll all season long, the Rockets have been in both polls much of this 2015 season, and the Hawkeyes jumped into both polls at midseason and have been rocketing up both surveys ever since.)

Speaking of Hawkeyes...I checked out the Purdue-Iowa game today. The Hawks won it, 40-20, and are still undefeated. What's more, they'll play Ohio State (if not Michigan State or even Michigan) in this season's Big Ten championship game on 12-5-2015 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN.

Kirk Ferentz' club has turned things around from 2014 because, among many other things, he, his staff, and their players learned the value of conditioning. 

Better conditioning has helped the Hawkeyes (now 11-0) play the whole doggone game, not just the first two or three periods. (And Ferentz dialing up a few wrinkles he might not have thought of in 2014 hasn't been too bad, either.) 

If football were a two-quarter or three-quarter game, ISU would be bowl eligible right now (if that were to happen, it'd be a first since 2012, when the team finished 6-7).

Instead, it's 3-8, with a date against West Virginia remaining. 

Football ISN'T a two-or-three-quarter sport. And the Cardinal and Gold have, coming into today's action, won just 44.4% of their games...and that's dating back to 1895, when Iowa State got into the football business. 

Football mediocrity at Iowa State isn't a recent thing at all.

It's gone on for decades.

Tiresome decades. 

The best the Cyclones have done was share just two conference championships...and those happened in 1911 and 1912, when the 'Clones and Nebraska's Cornhuskers each went 2-0-1 in 1911 (2-0 apiece the next year) in the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association (the forerunner of today's Big 12 Conference). Then in 2004, I-State and Colorado, both 4-4 in conference play, split the Big 12's North Division title...but the Buffaloes, on a tiebreaker, ended up facing Oklahoma in the league's title game. (The Sooners crushed the Buffs, 42-3.)  

Think about all the outright MVIAA/Big 6/Big 7/Big 8/Big 12 football championships the men from Ames missed out on. Think about all the winning seasons left on the field.

*In 1938, ISU (then known as Iowa State College; it didn't become Iowa State University until the 1959-60 academic year) was rolling along, winning its first seven games of the year and about to get its first all-to-itself Big 6 championship ever
...but on 11-12-1938, the Cyclones traveled to Manhattan, KS (site of this afternoon's game) and played the Wildcats to a 13-13 tie. A week later, the Sooners snapped up the league title by shutting the 'Clones out, 10-0, at Clyde Williams Field in Ames, IA.

*1944 was the next year the Iowa Staters posted a winning season. It could've been a championship season, too...except Oklahoma came to Ames on 11-4-1944. 

And the Sooners stunned Mike Michalske's team, 12-7. 

State came within inches of upending the team from Norman.  

*The 1959 team was the first of two ISU clubs to post identical 7-3-0 marks.

This one could've been the first in team history to win eight games...if Dwight Nichols, Tom Watkins, and Co. could've found two more touchdowns to beat Kansas on Halloween. 

*1961 could've been I-State's third straight winning campaign...but Clay Stapleton's team got clobbered at Colorado, 34-0, on 11-25-1961. [The club's next winning season was 1965, when Iowa State came home 5-4-1. The next winning season after that was 1971...the year the Cyclones (then coached by Johnny Majors) went bowling for the first time ever, thanks to a mark of 8-3-0. A Sun Bowl loss to Louisiana State turned Iowa State's ledger to 8-4-0.]

*1976 was Earle Bruce's fourth year in Ames; he'd replaced Majors so that Johnny could head up Pittsburgh's Panthers. After three straight 4-7-0 records, Bruce got ISU back to 8-3-0. 

Even so, Iowa State could've joined Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Colorado in the Big 8 throne room. In fact, Iowa State would've replaced O-State as a league trichampion...if the Cowboys hadn't beaten the Cyclones, 42-21, yesterday in 1976.  

That failure in Stillwater prevented bowl committees from inviting ISU to a taste of postseason action that year.

*The 2000 Cyclones were the first in club annals to win a bowl game (37-29 over Pittsburgh in the Insight Bowl).
Dan McCarney's sixth season at ISU yielded eight other wins for the only current Big 12 member without an outright league football title. 

Nonetheless, if the Sage Rosenfels-Ennis Haywood-Chris Anthony-Marc Timmons-led team had a victory over Nebraska or Texas A&M or K-State, the Cyclones would've been able to claim at least a share of the top of the Big 12 North.

*Rhoads' first Cyclone team- the 2009 edition- could've come into its own Insight Bowl date with a winning record.
But Iowa State couldn't handle Missouri (the Tigers won, 34-24). Nevertheless, at the Insight Bowl, the 'Clones beat Minnesota, 14-13. 

You know how far down ISU football has come since this son of Cecil Rhoads, one of the most famous high school football coaches in Iowa history, got his first NCAA head assignment?

Paul's first game as ISU head football coach resulted in a 34-17 win over North Dakota State.

Five years later, those same Bison came back to Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, IA, and socked it to the 'Clones, 34-14.

And Iowa State led the defending Division 1-AA (okay, FCS) champs for much of the first half. 

It all comes down to conditioning. If Paul Rhoads and his assistant coaches can't find a way to get their athletes better conditioned so that the Cyclones don't continue to blow halftime leads (and, instead, can learn to put teams away when they've got those clubs on the ropes), athletic director Jamie Pollard and his bosses will have to find a staff whose members CAN AND WILL stress conditioning. 

Way I see it, maybe it's time to completely reconstruct Iowa State University football.

Yeah. I know. I'm just a football fan.

Still, I do know this: Something's wrong when the same college football program that stank when your great-grandparents were of college age, was mediocre when your grandparents could've enrolled at a university or college, couldn't win consistently when it was (or could've been) your folks' turn to attend Dear Old U, and still wasn't good enough for SportsCenter during your own college years (unless these, right now, are your college years) can't cut it today. 

#After the 1978 season, University of Iowa officials decided to rebuild their school's gridiron team (it had suffered its 17th consecutive nonwinning campaign). They successfully pried Hayden Fry off the U of North Texas campus; his third season at Iowa resulted in a Big Ten cochampionship and the Hawkeyes' first Rose Bowl appearance since the 1958 season.

Fry, after previously saving UNT football (and doing the same at SMU before that), became the winningest head football coach in U of I history. After the 1998 season, he stepped away from Iowa City 143-89-6. [His successor there, Ferentz (one of Fry's old assistant coaches), is now 126-85 at Iowa.]

#27 years ago, Kansas State University's potentates decided to take their institution's football program right back to the drawing board after Sports Illustrated called K-State football the worst of all major NCAA grid teams during the 20th Century. (The Wildcats didn't win a single game in 1987 or 1988, won just three times combined in 1985 and 1986, and since America's television era began in the late 1940s, had racked up just four winning seasons- 1953, 1954, 1970, and 1982. And only the '82 effort came with a bowl bid attached- the first one in KSU history.) 

So...they called another of Fry's assistant coaches, Bill Snyder, and asked him if he'd like to resurrect what had been labeled a "basket case." 

Snyder took the Kansas State job...and got the 'Cats a winning season in 1991. He followed that up with the 2003 Big 12 championship (the Big Purple upset heavily-favored Oklahoma, 35-7) and a share of the league's 2012 title with those same Sooners.

Bill tried to retire after the 2005 season...but when school officials realized Ron Prince wasn't cutting it in Manhattan, they culled Snyder out of retirement in time for the 2009 cycle.
Iowa's old offensive coordinator now stands at 191-100-1...all of that at K-State.

#After the Southwest Conference broke up following the 1995-96 academic year, the Big 8 took in four of the now-defunct league's members: Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, and Baylor. (A&M split for the Southeastern Conference after the 2011-12 academic cycle...and took Missouri with it.)

The team from Waco, TX instantly became the whipping boys in the newly-reformulated Big 12. Things got to the point where even Iowa State could count on an automatic W whenever the schedule called for the Bears and Cyclones to taste it up. 

Chuck Reedy (remember him?) was the last head coach to give Bearball a winning record in the 20th Century; his 1994 and 1995 Baylor teams turned the trick. Over the next dozen years, Dave Roberts, Kevin Steele, and former NFL star Guy Morriss tried to get Baylor football back to where it could play in bowl games...let alone where Grant Teaff (the head coach in Waco from 1972 to 1992) took it: To the top.

They couldn't match Reedy or Teaff. 

The top brass at the world's largest United Methodist school yanked Art Briles off the campus of another old SWC school, the University of Houston.

Briles followed a pair of 4-8 showings with Baylor's first winning record of the current century- a 7-6 finish in 2010 (the Bears lost the Texas Bowl). Since then, his high-powered offense has produced a league title in 2013 and a piece of last year's Big 12 top prize (shared with TCU, a- you guessed it- one-time SWC member).

Art will be 64-35 at Baylor if his Bears knock the Cowboys from the unbeaten ranks tonight. (At Houston, where he coached from 2003 to 2007, his Cougars were 34-29.) 

So, there you are...if Iowa, Kansas State, and Baylor could take steps to clean up the rot that had set in on football at each of those schools and turn those teams into consistent winners and even champions, Iowa State certainly can, too.

Cyclone fans deserve it.  

By the way...a big shout-out to the people who put together. Most of the information in this post came from that site.