Ames, Iowa Iowa State looked like a team light-years away from competing with elite-level programs after losing to No. 8 Utah by 41 points at home and 52-0 to 11th-ranked Oklahoma on the road.
Seven days after the blowout loss to the Sooners, the Cyclones turned around and stunned Texas in Austin, 28-21, for their first road win over a ranked opponent since 1990 and their first win every against the storied Longhorns.
The Cyclones remain an unpredictable bunch with just four games left in the season.
Iowa State (4-4, 2-2) hosts reeling Kansas University (2-5, 0-3) on Saturday in what looks like its best shot yet at an easy victory. Yet nothing’s guaranteed for any team that’s lost three games by at least 28 points.
“I just think we lost a little confidence there. It took a good week of practice to realize that we are a good team and that we just played a couple real tough teams there for a while,” Iowa State wide receiver Josh Lenz said. “I feel pretty confident now that we’re getting back on the right track.”
One thing’s for certain, though. The win over Texas will go down as one of the biggest in school history.
It was similar to a shocking 9-7 win at Nebraska in 2009, the first milestone win for coach Paul Rhoads. But that one was a bit of a fluke for the Cyclones, who forced eight turnovers — including four inside its own five-yard line — and caught the Huskers napping with a 47-yard touchdown after a successful fake punt.
The win over the Longhorns was more definitive, and equally significant in terms of the program’s progress.
“When you haven’t beaten a program ever, and it’s the last Big 12 team that you haven’t beaten, it’s pretty significant,” Rhoads said. “You can’t hide the fact that beating traditional programs like that have a huge boost to a program that’s trying to make a name for itself.”
From the outside, it appeared that Iowa State was weak on both sides of the ball.
Iowa dominated both lines of scrimmage in a 35-7 win in September that could have been worse. The Utes overwhelmed them with speed, scoring 31 points in the second quarter alone, and the Sooners didn’t let the Cyclones do anything in handing them what could have been a demoralizing loss.
It’s a credit to Rhoads, his staff and his players that they didn’t let that happen.
“I think here’s a huge trust factor in our locker room,” Rhoads said. “When you have that trust factor you keep working together arm in arm. You eventually become accountable to each other, and our kids were certainly accountable Saturday.”