AMES | Paul Rhoads made a prediction that mixed comedy and clarity Monday as he looked ahead to Iowa State's upcoming game with high-powered TCU.
"I don't think we'll blow them out," said a smiling Cyclones' head football coach as the assembled media chuckled.
A lot of people agree with Rhoads. In fact, the oddsmakers believe ISU will land on the wrong end of a blowout for the second consecutive Saturday. In the wake of the 66-31 defeat at Texas Tech, ISU is listed as a 20-1/2 point underdog to the third-ranked Horned Frogs.
Rhoads' facetious prediction doesn't mean he thinks Saturday's 6 p.m. matchup with TCU is already a lost cause. It did reflect his belief that the Cyclones may have to make some big plays late to knock off a team that has won tight games over Minnesota, Texas Tech and Kansas State.
Moreover, the Cyclones' head coach said his football team is not ready to surrender to TCU - or anybody else - in 2015.
"There's no give-up in this football team," said Rhoads. "There's a lot of fight in this football team. You've got to start fast in football games to help build confidence as you go throughout the entire 60 minutes. That's what we'll be looking to do against TCU."
Starting fast is exactly what Iowa State failed to do at Lubbock last Saturday. The Red Raiders kicked a field goal on their first series, while quarterback Sam Richardson threw an interception on the Cyclones' initial offensive snap, a turnover that set up a Tech score.
Iowa State rallied from that quick 10-0 deficit and trailed by just 17-14 early in the second quarter. Texas Tech then scored the last 21 points of the half and maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the day.
"I think they just kept pouring it on us - they really did," said ISU linebacker Luke Knott.
Nonetheless, Rhoads felt that Texas Tech quickly damaged his team's emotional well-being and its chances at a road victory.
"I think we got a little intimidated early in that game Saturday with the speed of it," said Rhoads. "It wasn't as much the tempo of (the Red Raiders) going from one play to the next. I thought we handled that well. I'm talking about the speed of the actual plays. Then the early success of theirs created a little fear in our guys and we started playing to that instead of playing assignment football."
Before ISU traveled to Texas Tech, Rhoads stressed the need for a fast start. That part of the game plan won't change against a TCU team that's even more explosive offensively than the Red Raiders..
"Again, we'll need it and that's what we'll set out to do," said Rhoads.
Said running back Mike Warren, who broke Iowa State's single-game freshman rushing record with 245 yards at Lubbock, "I think if we have a fast start, we'll have a pretty good chance of staying up with them. I know the last game we came out really slow. The first play was an interception. But none of us got down. We responded quickly.
"I think if we can just get out on top quickly, we'll be all right."
Rhoads and his players understand that getting on top of TCU and staying there requires a better effort in several areas than it offered in the Texas Tech game.
Defensively, Iowa State has to simply play faster.
"We've got to be where we're supposed to be," said Rhoads. "We've got to be there when we're supposed to be there and play fast at all 11 positions."