A little more than two weeks ago, following possibly one of the most frustrating and embarrassing losses of the last 5+ years, I gave up on Paul Rhoads. Not only did I give up on him, but I did everything short of driving to Ames and cleaning out his office. As far as I was concerned, Rhoads was finished.
Two weeks later, the prevailing lesson here is that I have no clue what I'm talking about and I am more than happy to admit that.
While Iowa State sits only at 1-2 and that lone victory came over an Iowa team that might end up being a little shaky, you can't deny the progress this Cyclone team has made since August 30th. This team is growing up right before our eyes and the maturation is exciting. And you know what, all the credit should be directed squarely at the man leading the charge - Rhoads himself.
This team could have quit and to be completely honest, when Jacob Gannon left the team following the North Dakota State loss and then Iowa State found themselves in a 13-0 hole against Kansas State, it appeared that they had, but Rhoads simply wouldn't let them.
He never stopped coaching. He never stopped teaching. He never stopped looking for that edge.
How else do you explain things like moving Jevohn Miller to the Mike linebacker spot? Miller's play on the outside was often cringe-worthy and for the Monday morning quarterbacks among us, befitting of a spot on the bench. Rhoads, however, saw an opportunity to move Miller inside to a more natural position and it has proven to be a brilliant adjustment. In the process, he kept a senior captain on the field and both Miller and the defense as a whole have improved immensely.
Or what about pulling DeVondrick Nealy aside on Saturday after he coughed up the football going into the end zone, costing Iowa State what would have been a pivotal touchdown near the end of the first half. Courtesy of the Des Moines Register, Rhoads had this to say according to Nealy:
"At half time, he looked me in the eyes and told me, 'we're going to need you.' He was there for me. I knew I had messed up, but I knew my time would come again."
Wouldn't you know, Nealy ended up catching a 27-yard touchdown with a little over 7 minutes to play that put Iowa State in front, 17-14.
These are just two examples readily apparent and visible to us as fans, but I'm sure the list doesn't end there. While it would have been easy to be finished with both Miller and Nealy, that's not how Rhoads operates.
With Baylor looming after the bye week, Iowa State's schedule isn't going to get any easier and the hard truth is that this team will likely still struggle to put together enough wins to reach a bowl game, but this season is most certainly not finished.
We're seeing young talent like Allen Lazard, Jake Campos, Kamari Cotton-Moya, T.J. Mutcherson and Nigel Tribune blossom into legitimate ball players. Senior leaders like Miller, Tom Farniok and Cory Morrissey are playing great football. Most importantly though, there is no quarterback carousel on this team. Sam Richardson continues to show moxie and poise in the pocket and might be on the cusp of becoming that big-time signal-caller that this program has so sorely lacked.
It's only one win, but when you take a top-20 Kansas State team to the wire and then follow it up by going into Kinnick Stadium and walking out with a trophy, there's reason to be optimistic. More importantly, there's reason to believe.
No. Not at this time. Not after these last two games. Paul Rhoads has bought himself a well-deserved second look. I was wrong and perhaps even hilariously wrong and I've never been happier to look like a fool.