Paul Rhoads’ team took punch after punch this season.
Yet Iowa State’s will to compete remained strong each week despite an injury-riddled season and the Cyclones finished the season playing their best football. A close-call loss against Texas will be the lasting memory of the 3-9 season but the Cyclones’ response to a seven-game losing streak to start Big 12 play should not go unnoticed. ISU rallied to win its final two games and head into the offseason with some hope.
ISU’s offense didn’t scare anyone, finishing among the bottom three in almost every offensive category. The Cyclones’ 24.8 points per game was ninth in the Big 12 and No. 89 nationally and their 4.82 yards per play was also ninth in the conference.
Receiver Quenton Bundrage was the lone big-play threat on offense with nine receiving touchdowns including a 97-yard catch-and-run against Texas. He finished with 48 receptions for 676 yards.
Freshman quarterback Grant Rohach provided hope for the future, starting the last four games. In those games, ISU’s offense averaged 28.2 points and 5.38 yards per play. His 66.5 adjusted QBR was sixth in the Big 12. He joins Bundrage as a good building block for the future.
Realistically, the offensive line was the root of a lot of ISU’s offensive problems as injuries forced the Cyclones to play musical chairs throughout much of the season.
The Cyclones finished last in the Big 12 in points allowed per game (36), total yards allowed (463.1), yards per play allowed (6.05), rushing yards allowed (224), total sacks (15) and yards per rush (5.35). In other words, they earned this F.
There were individual standouts on the unit, like linebacker Jeremiah George and safety Jacques Washington, but the overall defense was really bad. A general lack of aggressive, active playmaking made this the conference’s worst unit. Yet there were a lot of inexperience players who got thrown into the fire so ISU can only hope 2013’s disappointment will spark success in 2014.
Special teams: B-
ISU’s special teams were solid but not exceptional. Punter Kirby Van Der Kamp was solid and Cole Netten hit 10 of 11 attempts inside 40 yards. Add two different players with kickoff returns for touchdowns (Jarvis West, DeVondrick Nealy) and ISU’s special teams held their own.
The Cyclones escaped an lower grade with their strong finish to the season and Rohach’s strong play once he took over the starting role. Their 52-44 triple-overtime win at West Virginia in its season finale showed a lot of fight for a team that could have thrown in the towel during a seven-game losing streak in the middle of the season. Nonetheless, a three-win season was a disappointing result.