After his team managed its its first conference and home win, Paul Rhoads was appreciative of the fans and moreso of his seniors.
But unless you were in attendance or watched a replay of the press conference, you wouldn't know Rhoads was pretty surly, answering only a few questions with a pointed tongue before briskly walking away.
The consensus among the media afterward was pretty much, "Was it something we said?"
I'd chalk it up to this: The season has been a stinker, a major setback in Rhoads' plan to rebuild Iowa State. Two consecutive bowl appearances, then the graduation of key players and wham, the Cyclones' infrastructure (depth, front-line talent, scheme) looks faulty (there have been injuries, but find me a Big 12 team that hasn't dealt with that this season).
So after a win that bumps the record up to 2-9, Rhoads is in no mood to humor questions about the "importance" of this win or what it could mean "going forward." In year five in Ames, Rhoads doesn't want to be captain of the lovable, plucky underdog that chugged its way to a heartwarming win on Senior Night. This isn't acceptable to Rhoads, he doesn't want to be patronized with any of those storlyines and set up a week of media coverage focusing on the significance of a Kansas win.
Does that win actually mean a lot? Yes, because Iowa State avoids being the laughingstock of the conference and because the fans and the players — who have worked very hard this season — needed something good to happen to them. But 34-0 over Kansas does not a total transformation make. Rhoads doesn't want any of that.
2. A 14-tackle night moved Jeremiah George to third nationally in total tackles and tackles per game, with 126. He can't get to first, but he's three away from No. 2 Tyler Matakevich of Temple, who has a game left as well.
George and Quenton Bundrage have been perhaps the lone bright spots this season. So impressive the way George handles himself — I've never seen a college player open up every media availability, however brief, with either a short statement or an "I'm taking all questions" line — and the way he cares about the team, the program and his legacy. There were tears welling up in his eyes as he spoke Saturday night, still wearing his football uniform, and he kept saying, "You guys don't know how good it feels."
No, we don't know how good it feels to rack up 14 tackles and beat a football team 34-0, but the rush of appreciation and wild emotion George felt Saturday is familiar to most of us, as is the desire to relish the final moments of something, whatever it is, before its chapter comes to an end.
3. An Iowa State insider says Joel Lanning has a very good chance to emerge from spring ball the starting quarterback or at least in serious contention. He can really sling it and would fit perfectly in a pro-style system. The current offense, dependent on the read-option, wouldn't fit Lanning well.
But I think Grant Rohach can ride into the offseason as the favorite for the job if he impresses on the road against West Virginia — something like 60 percent of his passes completed, a yards per attempt above six and one interception or fewer. Speculating on transfers is touchy, but I don't see how Rohach or Sam Richardson would go into fall camp (August) engaged in this quarterback uncertainty. This is ideal for neither of them. The spring will play out, and then one will read the writing on the wall.
4. If everyone's paying attention, E.J. Bibbs should be voted to second-team all-conference at tight end at the end of the season and, assuming Texas Tech's Jace Amaro leaves school early, Bibbs ought to be first team on the preseason list as well.
5. The Cyclones open as 9.5-point underdogs on the road at West Virginia. Morgantown's a tough place to play — Oklahoma State lost there early in the year and Texas needed a fourth-down conversion and then overtime to survive — and so I'm not surprised by that spread and I think most of the metric-based pundits will tilt toward the Mountaineers.
I do expect Iowa State to play loose and carefree without the "need conference win" monkey on its back. It's a difference of a game, but a 3-9 season looks, to me, so much better than 2-10, probably because it keeps the loss column in the single-digits.
6. Believe it or not, the Cyclones have a shot to finish tied for seventh in the Big 12. If they beat West Virginia, they'd have the same number of conference wins as the Mountaineers (two). TCU, which I don't think will beat Baylor this weekend, can also finish with two wins.
If Iowa State loses, it will finish ninth, holding a direct tiebreaker over Kansas as each team has one conference win — although the Jayhawks could jump to No. 9 with a home win over Kansas State and if Iowa State loses.
Does it matter? Nah. And there's room for interpretation with the standings. Some schools would unofficially acknowledge the tiebreaker (TCU would) and some wouldn't.
Sorry for the confusion.
7. The schedule and Mother Nature have made it very difficult on Iowa State's recruiting ops team, who've had to navigate sleepy and troublesome 11 a.m. kicks to fit in official visits and this past weekend, with a very important batch of official visitors in town, had snow on the ground and temperates below five.
Doesn't matter for Midwest kids, but Iowa State had two guys in from California, one from Florida and another from Mississippi. Uh. At 11 p.m. on Sunday, I talked to one of the California guys, Dale Pierson, and the Florida and Mississippi guys, Keiwan Jones and Jordan Harris, respectively.
Pierson was unabashedly not a fan of the weather, but says it's not too much of a factor. Jones, who spent a few years living in Delaware, said no biggie. Harris had a flash of culture shock but took it in stride. Once these recruits are back in their hometowns, they'll forget just how cold it was, and the impact of the weather will wear off, but I'm just saying it hasn't been an easy month of recruiting, especially given Iowa State's record.
8. NW Mississippi JUCO defensive tackle Tarow Barney committed to Penn State on Sunday to wrap up his official visit. With things looking bleak for Terrell Clinkscales, Jones is suddenly a must-get. The Dunnellon (FL) product will take an official visit to Purdue on Dec. 6-8 then look to close down his recruitment. Iowa State doesn't have any defensive linemen in its 2014 class. It needs Jones.
9. Harris is a tackling machine who'd fit great in Wally Burnham's unit. He's another of the must-get variety. We'll have more on him later in the week.
10. December is going to get crazy. The Cyclones have targeted a number of JUCO prospects, many who are December grads. Not to mention high school prospects Jones, Darius Lee-Campbell and Cordell Hudson are likely to decide soon. We'll soon have a very clear picture of the 2014 recruiting class, especially on the defensive side of the ball.