Iowa State came tantalizingly close to doing the unthinkable for a second consecutive year: making a bowl game.
The Cyclones had three chances to do it, but they ran into an inspired Colorado team, botched a fake extra point against Nebraska and couldn't muster a point without senior quarterback Austen Arnaud in the season finale against Missouri.
Although the season ended poorly, it wasn't without plenty of meaningful wins. The Cyclones knocked off Texas Tech and beat Texas for the first time in program history, and a season-opening win against Northern Illinois looks pretty good, considering the Huskies finished 10-3. Against a schedule that wasn't quite as brutal as it seemed in August, that was probably the Cyclones' best win.
Resiliency seemed like the word of the year for the Cyclones. They took two big beatings at the hands of Oklahoma and Utah, and rebounded to beat Texas and Kansas. With three games to go, they were still in the thick of the Big 12 North race, which is more than most people gave them a chance to do in the preseason. If that fake extra point against Nebraska had worked, and Arnaud didn't suffer a season-ending injury against Colorado, it's very possible that the Cyclones, picked last in the Big 12 North, could have won the division.
Iowa State won't have the experience in 2011 it had in 2010, but there's no doubt Paul Rhoads has the program rolling, and should be in position for another bowl game next year.
Offensive MVP: Alexander Robinson, RB. Robinson ran for 946 yards and nine touchdowns on 202 carries, good for eighth in the Big 12. It wasn't the season some predicted for Robinson, but it was still a pretty good one.
Defensive MVP: Jake Knott, LB. Knott continued the tradition of strong linebacker play at Iowa State, finishing second the Big 12 with 130 tackles. Plenty of those were because the Cyclones couldn't defend the run up front, but he's still proved himself as one of the Big 12's best linebackers in his first year as a starter.
Turning point: The Cyclones' 52-38 win against Texas Tech. It showed early on that Iowa State had no plans to roll over against its schedule, and showed the potential of Iowa State's offense. Arnaud threw four of his 13 touchdown passes in the game.
What's next: The Cyclones found the heir to Robinson in freshman Shontrelle Johnson, who should be poised for a breakout year in 2011, and Rhoads says there's a quarterback competition next spring. I'd be shocked if Jerome Tiller didn't win it, but the hope is he won't need to put up big numbers for the Cyclones to see success. Returning starters Knott and A.J. Klein should give Iowa State a good corps of linebackers next year. Leonard Johnson, Ter'Ran Benton and Jeremy Reeves could give the Cyclones an underrated secondary if they see some improvement during the spring.