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Cyclones are getting used to the underdog role under Rhoads

August 29, 2012 - Andy Heintz
The Cyclones are an underdog in a football game. Breaking news.

Well, it's not so breaking news to Iowa State football coach Paul Rhoads. He said Monday during his now weekly in-season press conference that he has come to expect the Cyclones to be underdogs in many of the games they play. Saturday's game against Tulsa was supposed to be an easy first win. It was supposed to be a nice way to get the season going.

Not so fast my friend.

"I would love to play that team that we know we are going to beat and start 1-0 against," Rhoads said. "But Tulsa is not that team. They expect to win. It is a scary football team for us. It is the toughest season opener for us in the four years that we have been here."

The Cyclones and Golden Hurricanes will play at 2:30 Saturday, which is a time change from the original time of 11 a.m. It was changed at the request of the Fox Sports and the Big 12 Conference so that the contest can be featured in a more prominent time slot.

Iowa State is coming off a bowl season and a 6-7 record, while Tulsa is seeking another winning season after going 8-5 a season ago. The Golden Hurricanes will welcome back former Nebraska quarterback Cody Green to run the offense. But Rhoads cannot get too focused on just stopping the former Husker starting quarterback.

"You don't prepare for the QB, you prepare for the Tulsa offense and the role that the QB plays in the offense," Rhoads said. "He's 1-0 here though. He'll be confident that he can come here and win."

The Cyclones have knocked off several opponents under Rhoads when they are not favored. They upset Iowa and No. 2 Oklahoma State at home last year and beat Nebraska in Lincoln in a previous year as well. So they are used to being underdogs and also are getting accustomed to winning games despite being the underdogs.

"The guys are aware that they are the underdogs in this game," Rhoads said. "If you look back, we have done pretty well when we are the underdogs. It's the opener. The guys will be ready to go."

Rhoads expects his defense to be much improved from last year. He admitted that the front four and even some of the lineman on the offensive side of the ball weren't ready last year. This year, they are improved and much smarter. He also said that he expects to play as many guys as possible as long as he feels the guys he puts in the game are helping the team win.

"You want to play as many guys as you can for morale reasons," Rhoads said. "We know that everyone practices hard, and we want to be able to get them in the game if we feel they can help us."

Rhoads expects at least eight and maybe as many as 12 guys to see the field on the front four of the defense. He added that while only three wide receivers are listed as starters, eight will likely see significant snaps. He envisions Aaron Horne blossoming this year and hopes Josh Lenz can have a breakout season in his final one in Ames.

"They've come along, and hopefully they are better one year later," Rhoads said.

The first game always bring a sense of unknowns to the roster. You know what the other team may do, but you also do not know exactly what new stuff you are going to see. It usually takes four or five game films to know exactly what teams want to do, according to Rhoads.

"We're going to know where we are at at about 5:30 or 6 on Saturday," Rhoads said. "We'll get answers. You take the tests and then get the answers."


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