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ISU backs Rhoads’ go-for-it mentality

November 8, 2010

AMES - Paul Rhoads said he didn't hesitate to make a call both wrapped in risk and radiating reward.

And when the Iowa State head football coach's decision to go for the win instead of a tie with a point-after fake failed in Saturday's 31-30 overtime loss to No. 9 Nebraska, his players didn't hesitate to back him.

"It was a good call," said tight end Collin Franklin, the intended recipient of holder and backup punter Daniel Kuehl's ill-fated floater into the end zone.

"Coach Rhoads made the decision to end the game with that play and it was a good call, we just didn't execute."

A bold brand of football and a passionate presence has come to define Rhoads in his nearly two-year tenure in Ames, making the daring decision unsurprising to those who share his sideline.

"That's his way to play football," said linebacker A.J. Klein.

None were more ardent in their support of Rhoads than fifth-year senior quarterback Austen Arnaud, who has been on the receiving end of his share of second-guesses and criticism in his three seasons as starter.

"We all trust Coach Rhoads, and we love what we're doing here," said Arnaud, holding back tears. "It was a great call. Had the momentum, go after them and give it a shot.

"Just didn't work out."

Coming that close to defeating the Big Ten-bound Nebraska in the 105th and possibly final meeting between the two schools only to see it flutter away with the wind and into the hands of Husker safety Eric Hagg left more Cyclones than just Arnaud trying to conceal tears.

Some weren't as successful as Arnaud.

"I got no problem with a grown man crying," said Rhoads. "I got a lot of grown men crying."

It's not just the final score that stings, but how the Cyclones got there, battling back from a 14-point fourth quarter deficit to force overtime.

"Obviously, it's heartbreaking to lose that close of a game," said running back Alexander Robinson. "The mood in the locker room was just somber."

To Arnaud, the level of disappointment reflected the level of investment every person in the locker room has in the success of the ISU program.

"People are in (the locker room) shocked, that's why I love this program and I love this team" he said, "because we're going to fight to the end and we're going to give it all we've got.

"No matter the outcome, this team is going to stay together because we're a family."

The loss means Iowa State will need a win in its final two contests (at Colorado and home against No. 20 Missouri) to earn bowl eligibility for the second consecutive season.

"Colorado is a game we have to win, and then we go on to Missouri," said Klein. "We have to concentrate on one game at a time. This game is going to be done and over with, so we just have to move on."

This particular type of ache - a missed chance to kick a top-10 Nebraska team out the Big 12 door with back-to-back wins in the series - might be new to the Cyclones, but they've tasted their share of disappointment this season: embarrassing blowout losses to Utah and Oklahoma.

"They all hurt bad," said Rhoads.

The pain is there, but it's obvious that not a single Cyclone is dealing with it alone.

From the head coach on down.



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