Rhoads brings Iowa State back from depths

| Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 10:32 p.m.

For Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads, it's been one step at a time.

When Rhoads took the job in December 2008, his first goal was to end the school's 10-game losing streak. That was accomplished in Rhoads' first game in 2009. In his third game, Iowa State defeated Kent State to end a 17-game road losing streak. The Cyclones won three Big 12 games in Rhoads' first year to end an 11-game losing stretch against conference opponents.

There were other highlights in Rhoads' first year, including a win over Nebraska in Lincoln for the first time since 1977 and a 7-6 record capped by a win over Minnesota in the Insight.com Bowl. In 2010, Iowa State upset No. 22 Texas for only the fourth win over a ranked team in school history.

“We've come a long way,” said Rhoads, Pitt's defensive coordinator from 2000-07 who grew up about 20 miles from Iowa State's campus. “I inherited a program that had lost 10 straight games and had the longest (road) losing streak in the country. Now we've qualified for our third bowl game in four years.”

Iowa State (6-5, 3-5) hosts West Virginia (5-5, 2-5) on Friday at Jack Trice Stadium, considered among the most difficult environments for visiting teams.

“It is a tough place to play,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. “I have been there twice. It is real hard to play (there) at night. Luckily, we are not playing at night. It will be rowdy.”

Rhoads will take rowdy over complacent any day.

When the Cyclones failed to win a Big 12 game the year before Rhoads' arrival, their fans were anything but enthusiastic.

“We had record‑setting attendance last year in three different categories,” Rhoads said. “Season ticket sales, single-season attendance at all six of our home football games were over 51,000 for the first time in the history of Iowa State football. The season ticket sales for 2012 surpassed those marks.”

A win over WVU will give Rhoads a 25-25 career record and secure his third winning season in four years at a program that is growing one step at a time.

“If you've got your ears and eyes open, you learn a lot every day,” Rhoads said. “Understand that every football team is different. You can't do things cookie cutter. You've got to make adjustments just like you would make adjustments in a game, in season. I think we've done that.”

Rhoads' latest adjustment was inserting redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Richardson in the third series against Kansas last Saturday. Richardson, who hadn't attempted a collegiate pass, led Iowa State to touchdowns on four straight possessions in a 51-23 win.

“We wanted a package that we could efficiently run. Once we got clicking, we were able to stay with that approach,” Rhoads said.

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com.

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