AMES, Iowa (AP) — One of the defining qualities of Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads is his ability to generate optimism in lieu of success.
It’s going to be tough to keep selling hope after another awful start.
The Cyclones (0-1) didn’t just drop their first game for the second year in a row. They fell at home, 34-14, to North Dakota State — an FCS program with 22 fewer scholarships, a new coach and a new quarterback.
Considering what lies ahead for the Cyclones in the coming weeks; No. 20 Kansas State (1-0) on Saturday, at Iowa, No. 10 Baylor and at Oklahoma State, Rhoads’ stated goal of a bowl win this season already seems a bit unrealistic.
We need to focus on “urgency and getting your job done,” Rhoads said. “Whether it’s a tackle, a route, whether it’s a block. Everyone needs a little more urgency in coaching and playing.”
Iowa State’s offense sputtered badly in its first game under new coordinator Mark Mangino.
It won’t be easy to fix things with star wide receiver Quenton Bundrage out for the year.
Bundrage, who led the Cyclones with 48 catches and nine TDs in 2013 and was arguably the most talented player on their roster, injured his right knee during the first series Saturday.
Rhoads said Monday that Bundrage tore his anterior cruciate ligament and won’t be back in 2014.
Perhaps the only consolation for Iowa State is that wide receiver remains the program’s deepest position. Promising freshman Allen Lazard and transfer D’Vario Montgomery will get more snaps as the Cyclones seek to replace Bundrage’s production.
“He’s a big playmaker,” Rhoads said. “Bundrage was a very big part of our offense ... he was looking forward to not only a big-play season but a consistent season for himself. To have that taken away on the fourth play of a football game is really disheartening for the young man. I feel for him.”
Iowa State also lost center Tom Farniok to a knee injury against the Bison. But Rhoads said that the Cyclones are confident that Farniok will be able to go against the Wildcats.
That’s good news for the Cyclones, because their offense fell apart without Farniok in the lineup.
Iowa State was held scoreless for the final 44 minutes and gained just 57 yards in the second half as North Dakota State rattled off 34 unanswered points.
The lack of offensive cohesiveness without Farniok on the field was a big reason why quarterback Sam Richardson ran the ball 15 times — more than running backs Aaron Wimberly and DeVondrick Nealy combined.
Richardson also finished 20 of 31 passing for 151 yards and two interceptions.
“He was going through his progressions much better than he has in the past,” Rhoads said. “But Sam was thoroughly a pass-first quarterback, as we’d like him to be, and ran when he had to.”
For the second year in a row, Iowa State has been forced to answer questions about how it’ll bounce back from a home loss to an FCS school in its opener.
Last season’s 28-20 defeat to Northern Iowa set a bad tone for the rest of the year. The Cyclones went on to lose nine of their first 10 games and finished 3-9, their worst record under Rhoads.
Iowa State is hoping to avoid a similar tailspin this time around.
“We’ll respond to it better than we did last year,” Richardson said. “We’ve got to respond to it quicker than we did last year.”
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