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Monday, October 25, 2010
Rhoads' teams display rare resiliency

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Paul Rhoads' second season as head coach hasn't ended yet, but he's already recorded wins on the home fields of two of college football's most historic programs -- Nebraska and Texas.

The latter is especially impressive considering no Iowa State coach had successfully beaten the Longhorns anywhere, much less in Austin.

Paul Rhoads
Paul Rhoads' Cyclones stunned the Longhorns in Austin after giving up 120 points in their previous two games.
Rhoads' teams aren't perfect. You can't ignore those beatings by 41 and 52 points in successive weeks, even if they came at the hands of top 15 opponents with a combined one loss.

But how many teams take those beatings and can come back with one of their best performances of the year? Not many. And at least one of them is coached by Rhoads.

The Cyclones believe in themselves and believe in Rhoads, and above all else, that's become Iowa State's identity during his brief tenure. That's definitely a good thing for a program that hasn't had much national attention -- save a brief brush with stardom when Seneca Wallace's Iowa State team was ranked in the top 10 in 2002.

This year, Rhoads is once again the gray-haired, fist-pumping, infectious-smiling, motivational-speaking, choked-up YouTube star in charge of one of the most likable teams in the Big 12.

"A.J. [Klein] grabbed me around the neck and he said, 'That's why I became a Cyclone. Right there,'" he told his team after the game. "That's what it's all about."

Rhoads can't stop calling his teams "blue-collar," and it's a reflection of its coach. Get it done anyway they have to. It took eight turnovers last season in Nebraska, and the Cyclones battled a handful of injuries to offensive stars, including quarterback Austen Arnaud and Alexander Robinson. Several other team members missed the game with swine flu.

But the Cyclones won.

They did it again on Saturday, and no puzzling string of fumbles was necessary. Everyone told the 21-point underdogs they couldn't win, and the Cyclones proved the critics wrong. A Cyclones team that gave up 110 points in two games had a 28-6 lead through three quarters and stunned a Texas crowd.

Injuries weren't an issue this year, but battered pride had to be. It's not fun to lose, and it's even worse to do it without being competitive, like Iowa State did against Utah and Oklahoma in successive weeks.

And just like last year, the Cyclones strapped on their hard hats, grabbed their lunch pails and went to work on the Longhorns. Even if they had to take a very un-blue collar private airplane to get there. Maybe a change to a run-down 70s tour bus is in order.