Then the Cyclones didn't win another game.
Iowa State lost 27-13 to Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on Friday, its third straight loss since beating Oklahoma State on Nov. 18 in Ames.
``The program has come a long way,'' said third-year Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads, an Iowa native who signed a 10-year extension earlier this month. ``I think this is a very good season. As we move forward that's not going to be good enough. We won both games we were picked to win, we won four that we weren't, we beat two ranked teams, one on the road and one that was No. 2 in the country.
``But finishing with a bowl loss does not fulfill the expectations of our program.''
Chas Dodd hit Brandon Coleman for an 86-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter for Rutgers and Jawan Jamison ran for 131 yards and two scores.
``If you want to win bowl games or any games, you have to limit big plays,'' said junior linebacker A.J. Klein, part of a group of returning players who give hope to the fans of a program that has usually been relegated to the second rung of the Big 12.
The Scarlet Knights (9-4) ran their bowl winning streak to five and improved to 2-0 this season at Yankee Stadium, where they beat Army last month. Rutgers, which played in one bowl game before 2005, is 5-1 in the postseason under coach Greg Schiano.
When the Cyclones (6-7) shook the national championship race by handing Oklahoma State its only loss of the season, and Jared Barnett threw for 376 yards in the 37-31 double-overtime victory. In this game, Steele Jantz relieved Barnett in the second quarter and helped pull the Cyclones within 20-13 in the fourth on Jeff Woody's 20-yard touchdown run with 10:00 left.
After an exchange of punts left Rutgers deep in its own end, Dodd went deep to Coleman. The 6-foot-6 redshirt freshman went over 5-7 cornerback Jeremy Reeves, then outran the defender to the end zone to make it 27-13 with 5:47 left.
``Great play,'' Rhoads said. ``Yeah, 20-13 and I thought the momentum was all ours and field position was good.''
It was Coleman's only catch, but it turned out to be the play of the game.
``I didn't go out there trying to make a play. I just went out there trying to do my job,'' Coleman said. ``The number was called but I was still calm, cool and collected.''
The Scarlet Knights missed the postseason last year for the first time since 2004, but rebounded this season to challenge for the Big East title behind a defense that came in ranked 14th in the nation.
There was also some inspiration from a fallen former teammate.
Eric LeGrand, who was left paralyzed from the shoulders down making a tackle during a game in 2010, went to all the Rutgers home games, worked on the radio broadcasts and was with the team in New York all week leading up to the bowl.
After the game, as the Scarlet Knights accepted the trophy at midfield, Schiano's acceptance speech was short: ``Eric! Eric!'' he shouted into the microphone, ``this one's for you.''
LeGrand was shown in his wheelchair on the jumbotron, beaming a wide grin and the crowd chanted, ``Eric! Eric!''
He celebrated with his former teammates in the locker room.
``That's our brother before and after the injury, and that's how we're going to treat him forever,'' Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene said. ``Just having his presence around, it's amazing. He makes the locker room glow.''
Rutgers grabbed a 7-6 lead early in the second quarter when Jamison powered through a tackler and scored on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
On the next possession, Iowa State couldn't handle one of Rutgers' many blitzes, and Khaseem Greene and Wayne Warren swarmed and stripped Barnett. Scott Vallone scooped up the fumble and returned it 12 yards to the Iowa State 4. The Cyclones managed to hold Rutgers to San San Te's 21-yard field goal.
Jantz, who was Iowa State's starter the first half of the season, replaced Barnett on the next Iowa State possession.
``We were not executing in a manner that I felt was going to lead us to a win, and from what we've seen in December's practices, made the switch,'' Rhoads said about the quarterbacks.
He then added with a sarcastic smile: ``And I want to create a quarterback controversy heading into spring ball.''
Iowa State jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first quarter, with Guyer kicking field goals of 40 and 46 yards on the Cyclones' first two possessions. Inaccurate throws by Barnett were key to stalling each drive.
The redshirt freshman was 2 for 7 before giving way to Jantz, who finished 15 for 31 for 197 yards and ran for 36 yards.
``Most of it falls on the offense not executing and not what they did,'' the junior college transfer said. ``Not to take away anything from them because they have a great defense, but then again it ultimately comes back to me because I run the offense.''
Iowa State Bowl History (Record: 3-8)
|Dec. 30, 2011||Pinstripe Bowl-Rutgers 27, Iowa State 13|
|Dec. 31, 2009||Insight Bowl-Iowa State 14, Minnesota 13|
|Dec. 31, 2005||Houston Bowl-TCU 27, Iowa State 24|
|Dec. 28, 2004||Independence Bowl-Iowa State 17, Miami (OH) 13|
|Dec. 31, 2002||Humanitarian Bowl-Boise State 34, Iowa State 16|
|Dec. 27, 2001||Independence Bowl-Alabama 14, Iowa State 13|
|Dec. 28, 2000||Insight.com Bowl-Iowa State 37, Pittsburgh 29|
|Dec. 20, 1978||Hall of Fame Bowl-Texas A&M 28, Iowa State 12|
|Dec. 31, 1977||Peach Bowl-North Carolina State 24, Iowa State 14|
|Dec. 18, 1972||Liberty Bowl-Georgia Tech 31, Iowa State 30|
|Dec. 18, 1971||Sun Bowl-LSU 33, Iowa State 15|