Cedar Rapids, Iowa News, Sports, and Weather
AMES, Iowa Iowa State football coach Paul Rhoads scanned his four-year to-do list.
Lots of important items been checked off.
Several remain unmarked including two noteworthy ones centering on the numbers seven and four.
To wit: The Cyclones (6-5, 3-5) enter Friday's 2:30 p.m. ABC-televised Big 12 senior day game against slight favorite West Virginia (5-5, 2-5) in quest of their first seven-win regular season and first four-triumph in-conference campaign.
"In addition to the senior game, we're playing for a lot of things," Rhoads said. "A lot of things this program has not accomplished yet (under him) and this senior class would like nothing more than to put their name all over that kind of a season."
In Rhoads' first season, ISU had a chance to notch a seven-and-four double in the regular season finale at Missouri. The Cyclones lost, 34-24, but went on to beat Minnesota in the Insight Bowl.
Last season, ISU achieved win number six in week 10, but dropped remaining regular season games at Oklahoma and Kansas State before losing to Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl.
So No. 7 is a very big deal.
As is No. 4.
"And (it's) within our grasp," Rhoads said. "It was talked about as much going into the Kansas game (a 51-23 win last week) as getting victory number six because you can't achieve any of that without getting the sixth first. But things that we can still attain are four Big 12 wins. Haven't done that. Seven regular season wins. Haven't done it. Chance for an eight overall win season. Haven't done it. Chance for a top half, top six finish in the Big 12. Haven't done it. All things that are great motivation for our kids."
Beating a high-powered, but floundering Mountaineers team also could enhance bowl possibilities.
Players talk of getting somewhere warm, like San Diego and the Holiday Bowl.
Rhoads spoke of something else when asked for his postseason thoughts.
"I prefer a medium-sized bowl," he said, tongue-in-cheek. "I don't like my cereal to overflow when I eat."
West Virginia's Geno Smith-led offense tends to upset stomachs and cause heads to hurt.
The Mountaineers rank fourth in the FBS in passing offense at 344.8 yards per game.
They're eight in scoring offense (40.8 points) and ninth in total offense (510 yards).
"It's going to be a challenge for everybody," said senior cornerback Jeremy Reeves. "The main thing is tackling and playing smart."
That and scoring.
West Virginia's offense has racked up 38, 34 and 49 points in their past three losses.
And whether it's overnight sensation Sam Richardson starting at quarterback for the Cyclones or someone else, it can't become a game of catch up.
The Mountaineers field the nation's lowest-rated pass defense, which yields an average of 364.6 aerial yards per game.
Richardson shrugs at the statistic.
"We have to prepare for them like they're the best defense in the country," Richardson said. "That's my mindset."
Rhoads likes that approach every game, no matter what milestones seem ripe for the plucking.
"When you hit that line, hit it hard," Rhoads said. "Take the field 'all in,' and 'give it up.' That's what we ask these kids to do."