By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
Iowa State hopes the second Pinstripe Bowl will result in the second bowl victory of the Paul Rhoads Era.
In Rhoads' first season, the Cyclones capped off the season with a 14-13 victory over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl. After missing out on the post-season in 2010, Iowa State faces Rutgers Friday in Yankee Stadium.
Iowa State (6-6) has focused on fundamentals and player development during its bowl practices. Installing the game plan for Rutgers came in the final days of work outs in Ames. Rhoads used a similar approach for the Insight Bowl.
"I maintain that the focus of our football team is really good right now, and that's why we played well the back half of the season," Rhoads said. "And I don't suspect that to change."
Iowa State became bowl eligible with one of this season's biggest upsets. The Cyclones rallied from a 17-point third quarter deficit to upset second-ranked Oklahoma State in double overtime.
"That definitely catches the eye of everybody," Rutgers defensive tackle Scott Vallone said. "They beat the No. 2 team in the country. So, we know they're pretty good."
Rutgers, like Iowa State, was predicted to have a dreadful season. The Scarlet Knights (8-4) were picked to finish last in the Big East Conference but came within a victory in the final regular-season game of finishing in a tie for first.
Sophomore Chas Dodd and freshman Gary Nova have shared the quarterback position for Rutgers this season. Both are expected to play in the bowl game. However, they're similar quarterbacks and the offense doesn't change significantly for either one.
"They do similar things," Iowa State linebacker Jake Knott said. "It's not going to affect us too much, as would a running quarterback to a throwing quarterback. We're not really going to change our game plan around either of them too much."
New Era Pinstripe
Iowa State vs. Rutgers
Need to know:
2:20 p.m. Dec. 30, Yankee Stadium, Bronx, N.Y., ESPN.
Iowa State 6-6, Rutgers 8-4.
Scouting Iowa State
The Cyclones put together two three-game winning streaks. The second spurt was sparked by redshirt freshman quarterback Jared Barnett. His ability to run the offense and limit turnovers has made Iowa State a more balanced team. Over the second half of the season, running back Jeff Woody has provided a power factor in the backfield. The defense, led by linebackers Jake Knott and A.J. Klein (the Big 12's co-defensive player of the year) and defensive back Leonard Johnson, has been solid all season.
Freshman Gary Nova and sophomore Chas Dodd share the quarterback duties for the Scarlet Knights. Junior wide receiver Mohamed Sanu is a big-play threat. He has 109 receptions with seven touchdown catches and averages 95.3 yards per game. Rutgers is strong on special teams play and is tied for fifth nationally in turnovers forced with 31. Linebacker Khaseem Greene was named co-Big East defensive player of the year after leading the conference with 127 tackles,
Five of Iowa State's losses came to ranked teams. Rutgers faced just one ranked team, losing to West Virginia 41-31. … Rutgers closed its season and missed out on a chance to share the Big East title with a 40-22 loss to Connecticut. Iowa State won at UConn, 24-20 in mid-September. … Rutgers has won four straight bowl games after losing its first under coach Greg Schiano in 2005. … Rutgers will be playing at Yankee Stadium for the second time this season. It defeated Army 27-12 on Nov. 12 in the famed ball park.