AMES — After suffering a second consecutive season opening home loss to an FCS program, Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads walked into his team’s locker room with a short and simple message.
This time, the Cyclones had been handed a 34-14 loss to North Dakota State, giving up 34 unanswered points in the process to the three-time defending FCS national champion. Iowa State had a tendency to let one loss turn into multiple — along with numerous injuries — but Rhoads said all his team can do now is turn the page to next week.
“We got beat by a team that is better than us on August 30, 2014. That’s what happened,” Rhoads said. “You get beat by better teams in athletics. Now we improve and try to improve ourselves and be better the next time we step on the field.”
Even after the game, Rhoads was persistent that the players had a successful training camp and had “great preparation” for what the Bison showed on the field. That’s what made the loss harder and pushed the mood down in the locker room following the game.
“Everybody came out with big hopes. We were fresh, we were ready to win (because) we prepared so well,” junior running back DeVondrick Nealy said. “We didn’t take them lightly, we didn’t overlook them at all. Not once. It happened the way it happened, so we have to deal with it.”
“We just played a great team and they just outworked us a little bit,” senior defensive lineman Brandon Jensen said.
Iowa State will have just one week of practice before its Big 12 season starts when Kansas State pays a visit to Jack Trice Stadium. The Wildcats are ranked No. 20 in the AP poll and beat Stephen F. Austin 55-16 on Saturday.
To avoid a 0-2 start like last season, ISU players know they have to put each week into context and not dwell too much on what might have been. Senior defensive end Cory Morrissey is trying to set an example for the rest of the team as a co-captain.
“We’ve got to stay focused and do what we do and stay us,” Morrissey said. “There’s nothing you can do, nothing you can really talk about. You’ve just got to stay focused and just go to work.”
Early on in his postgame news conference, Rhoads pointed to the performance of freshman punter Colin Downing in his first game with the Cyclones. Downing punted six times averaging 45.7 yards per punt with a long of 56. Rhoads called the performance good but not great, saying improvement will be required in all three phases of the game as well as the coaching.
Iowa State’s game against Kansas State will be another 11 a.m. kickoff at Jack Trice Stadium, and Rhoads will look for the players’ growth after another week of “well executed and well detailed” practice routines. A team that is capable of improving each week this season.
“I think they know that about us and they’ll expect it,” Rhoads said of the fans. “They should expect it.”
l Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org