Archive for December, 2009

Rhoads proud to be coaching in Tempe

December 30, 2009

Iowa State Coach Paul Rhoads’ body language has been in sync with his words from the first day on the job.

And the way Rhoads was smiling and bouncing around Tuesday in Tempe,  Ariz., as the first-year coach’s team prepares to play Minnesota in the Insight Bowl, he really is “proud to be your coach.”  

The phrase has caught on amongst Cyclone fans and Rhoads supporters.

The coach most famously said it in the locker room following ISU’s stunning 9-7 victory at Nebraska, an emotional speech that was viewed widely on the Internet.

“If you go back to May when we started our Tailgate Tours I ended every one of those talks that way,” Rhoads said. “I don’t think it’s something I coined or always will be how I sign off.”

Rhoads said it to his players during their first team meeting back on Jan. 12, just as he promised Athletic Director Jamie Pollard he would when interviewing to be Gene Chizik’s successor.

He’ll probably say it again Wednesday night at ISU’s spirit rally.

Will he get to say it again Thursday night in the locker room after beating the Golden Gophers?

ISU’s players bought into Rhoads’ more personable, caring approach. Once they put confidence with ability, reaching the postseason was a realistic possibility this season.

“We knew that we were a lot better than we showd on game days,” said senior defensive tackle Nate Frere. “As soon as Coach Rhoads got here and set those goals for us and we started buying into the system, everything just took off.”

And made Rhoads proud to be their coach.

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Merrier Christmas for ISU’s long-suffering seniors

December 24, 2009

Finishing their Christmas shopping isn’t the only thing on Iowa State player’s minds this year. They have a game to prepare and pack for. 

No current team members have played in a postseason game.

A few players were along for the ride in 2005 at the Houston Bowl — ISU’s last bowl appearance — but were true freshmen and redshirted that season. Safety James Smith was one of those scout team all-stars. 

He didn’t think it would be another four years before he was back in a bowl.

The Cyclones (6-6) leave for Tempe, Ariz., the day after Christmas (weather permitting) in advance of their New Year’s Eve Insight Bowl game against Minnesota.

“We’ve been working hard for the last five years. We’ve been through a lot,” said Smith, one of 10 senior starters playing in their final game. “It feels good to get rewarded.”

Senior defensive tackle Nate Frere came to ISU in 2006.

The teams he was on before this year had a combined record of 9-27. He witnessed the end of the Dan McCarney era, Gene Chizik’s brief stay in Ames, and the promising start to Paul Rhoads’ coaching career.

The bumps in the road in getting to next week’s game got the Cyclones to this point. Frere is as proud as anybody to be in this position.

“Hard work and sticking with it is going to pay off at some point,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

The rest of ISU’s long-suffering senior class: tight end Derrick Catlett, center Reggie Stephens, receiver Marquis Hamilton, punter Mike Brandtner, and linebackers Jesse Smith, Derec Schmidgall, Fred Garrin and Josh Raven. Defensive end Christopher Lyle is a junior college transfer who has spent only three years in Ames.

He’s had it rough, but not as bad as the rest of his senior mates.

Men’s hoops on hiatus till 2010

December 23, 2009

Iowa State’s men’s basketball team has almost two weeks off before playing again Jan. 3 at home against Houston.

The Cyclones are 9-3, with non-conference games still to go against the Cougars, Duke (Jan. 6) and North Dakota State (Jan. 9). They’ve been dominant in their victories, with each of the wins coming by 10 or more points, the most double-digit victories in a season since 2004-05.

Losses to Northwestern and Northern Iowa — NCAA Tournament hopefuls themselves — by a combined five points were disappointing and could count against ISU come March.

Here are some of the highlights, stats and facts from the season so far:

— ISU has scored 80 points or more seven times this season. It happened just once during 2008-09.

— Marquis Gilstrap has lived up to the hype so far with averages of 14.7 points and 8.9 rebounds a game. He’s had five double-doubles and scored in double figures in 11 of 12 games.

— The Cyclones came into Tuesday’s game with North Dakota shooting 44.3 percent from 3-point range, tops in the Big 12 and fourth nationally.

— Lucca Staiger set a new school record and tied for second all-time in Big 12 single-game history with 10 3-pointers in a 90-70 win at Drake.

— The bench is averaging 24.5 points a game, a far cry from depth issues and limited options Coach Greg McDermott has had during his previous three seasons.

— All-Big 12 candidate Craig Brackins is the team’s leading scorer (17.5 ppg) and 3-point shooter (13 of 22; 59.1%) and second-leading rebounder (8.1 rpg) and passer (34 assists).

— Sophomore big man Justin Hamilton is shooting 78.6 percent (22 of 28) on field goals.

Ex-ISU asst. Alford staying on at ND

December 20, 2009

Former Iowa State assistant football coach Tony Alford is keeping his job at Notre Dame.

He is the only Fighting Irish assistant being retained by new coach Brian Kelly. Kelly and Alford became acquaintances when Kelly was at Cincinnati and Alford, who coached at ISU from 1997-2000 and 2002-06, was at Louisville.

“He is a tremendous teacher and a great recruiter and I’m thrilled to keep him on the coaching staff,” Kelly said in a statement. “He has consistently developed his players at every school he has coached and his passion for the game is infectious.”

Alford, 41, coached three 1,000-yard rushers at ISU in Darren Davis, Ennis Haywood and Stevie Hicks, running backs who also happen to be three of the top six career rushing leaders at the school.

Four of the 10 best single-game rushing totals in Cyclone history occurred during Alford’s tenure.

Congratulations to him. Good guy, good family, good coach.

Ames, Barnes playing on national stage

December 17, 2009

The nation will get its chance to see the nation’s No. 1 basketball recruit Thursday night.

Defending Class 4A state champion Ames (3-0) and North Carolina signee Harrison Barnes will be live in front of an ESPN national audience for its 8 p.m. game against Waukegan (Ill.) High School, one that pits two of the most highly-ranked prep teams in the country.

The Little Cyclones will face a more athletic team than they are used to.

Waukegan lost to Whitney Young — which had current Iowa State freshman guard Chris Colvin and Marcus Jordan, son of Michael, in its starting lineup — in last year’s state championship game. 

Barnes will go up against Jereme Richmond, a University of Illinois recruit considered one of the top 20 players nationally.

The 6-8 wing decided not to make Hilton Coliseum his college home, but will be on Iowa State’s playing floor tonight.

Ames has already played at the Knapp Center in Des Moines this season. It also has a game scheduled for Wells Fargo Arena, a place it obviously has designs on playing in come March and the state tournament.

McDermott on ESPN’s campus

December 16, 2009

While his Iowa State players are studying for (hopefully) or taking final exams, men’s basketball coach Greg McDermott will be on ESPN’s Bristol, Conn., campus Wednesday.

McDermott is being joined by Kansas State’s Frank Martin and Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe.

The conference has set up visits to ESPN this fall for its head coaches to help promote the league.

McDermott and Martin willwork through interviews from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on television, radio and Internet platforms.  

ISU (7-3) next plays on Sunday against Bradley at Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones are coming off a 81-71 victory over Iowa last Friday night.

Bowl game the last for RB Schwartz?

December 13, 2009

Reserve running back Jeremiah Schwartz may not be long for Iowa State’s football team.

Coach Paul Rhoads said Saturday the 5-11, 232-pound redshirt freshman is considering leaving the program after the Dec. 31 Insight Bowl in Tempe, Ariz. Schwartz may leave school before the start of the next semester, Rhoads said, but for now is preparing for Minnesota like the rest of his teammates. 

“He is practicing and will be with us for the bowl game,” Rhoads said.

Schwartz, from Orlando, Fla., is the team’s third-leading rusher with 274 yards or 71 attempts.

He has not played the last four games and is among a crowded group of tailbacks that includes junior Alexander Robinson, freshmen Beau Blankenship and James White as well as sophomore Bo Williams.

Insight Bowl TV, injury and ticket news

December 12, 2009

Mediacom cable customers won’t be seeing NFL Network on their channel lineup any time soon, but that doesn’t mean they are SOL for Iowa State’s Insight Bowl game against Minnesota in Tempe, Ariz.

Bowl officials will try to find a home for the game in the local markets before the Dec. 31 game. Insight representatives were in Ames Friday meeting with ISU officials.

“One of the things we’ll do over the next couple of weeks is work with the NFL Network to try and get better access in the team markets so that folks here who don’t have it can see the game,” said Insight rep Jay Fields.

NFL Network has had the rights to the game since its inception in 2006.

Mediacom does not carry that channel on any of its packages — and apparently doesn’t plan to.

“I don’t see that changing,” ISU Athletic Director Jamie Pollard said. “Whether there will be an oppoithty for the game to be seen over the air…I’m glad to hear they are working on it.”

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Pollard said half of ISU’s alotted 10,500 tickets have been sold since Sunday’s announcement.

This week’s freezing temperatures and record snowfall have probably helped spur sales. Are ISU folks hoping for another blizzard or two before the month is out?

“Personaly I hope not because I don’t want to have to eal with it,” Pollard said. “but if that’s what it takes to get people to go to tempe, then I am all for it. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.”

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Defensive back Ter’ran Benton is fully participating in practice activity and will play against the Golden Gophers.

Benton broke a bone in his leg during ISU’s Oct. 24 win over Nebraska. The sophomore totaled 36 tackles and two sacks this season, playing mainly as the Cyclones’ nickel back.

“He is back practicing and doing everything full speed,”  Coach Paul Rhoads said. “It’ll be exciting to see him back in uniform.”

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Iowa State’s trip down there in 2000 remains the stuff of legend in the Valley of the Sun.

The school sold 12,000 tickets to the game and at least another 8,000 — more depending on whom you talk to — were inside Bank One Ballpark.

“When people talk about the Insight Bowl and the growth it has had, the game everyone always talks about is Iowa State-Pittsburgh and how many people came from the state of Iowa to watch the Cyclones,” Fields said.

TV talk for ISU bowl game

December 7, 2009

For us pro football fans who happen to be Mediacom cable subscribers, Iowa State’s Dec. 31 game against Minnesota in the Insight Bowl could trigger something that will change our lives as we know it.

The bowl game will be televised by the NFL Network, a channel not currently offered by Mediacom.

Could that change — or more to the point, will Mediacom cave to what’s sure to be an onslaught of angry phone calls and emails — with the Cyclones’ New Year’s Eve appearance?

Let’s hope so. I’d watch the hell out of some NFL Network.

I’m sure there are many others who feel the same way.

And who is scheduled to call the 5 p.m. game from Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.? None other than former Iowa quarterback Paul Burmeister. 

It took Mediacom long enough to add the Big Ten Network. It needs do the right thing, please its customers and add the NFL Network to its extended basic package.

I’m putting it on my Christmas list.

ISU and Iowa in AZ would be a “coincidence”

December 5, 2009

Iowa and Iowa State will not come to Arizona bowl games as a package deal.

This coming from Tony Alba, a spokesman for the Fiesta and Insight bowls, which have both of the state schools very much on their radar.

The rivals could bring some crossover fans, who would arrive for ISU’s Dec. 31 Insight Bowl game against a Big Ten, then stay in town to watch the Hawkeyes play in the Jan. 4 Fiesta Bowl.

Alba said this week that the selection committee extends invitations independently.

“We don’t look at it that way at all,” he said. “It could work out like that by coincidence. We look at the best decision for the Fiesta Bowl and the best decision for the Insight Bowl.”

We’ll know for sure Sunday night, when all the bowls’ selections are finalized.

ISU (6-6) also could play in the Independence or Texas bowls.

The Cyclones have played in all three of those bowls before. They were picked for the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., twice this decade, most recently in 2004.

“They haven’t indicated that’s an issue,” ISU Athletic Director Jamie Pollard said.

Of course, things could change depending on the results of Saturday’s games, particularly the Big 12 Championship game between Texas and Nebraska.