- Associated Press - Monday, December 8, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads remains a relatively popular figure in Ames despite a 2-10 record.

The Cyclones probably won’t put up with another two-win season in 2015.

Iowa State (2-10, 0-9 Big 12) limped to the finish on Saturday with a 55-3 loss at TCU, which fell out of playoff contention anyway.

Athletic director Jamie Pollard gave Rhoads a vote of confidence last week, joining Rhoads on his weekly radio show and expressing support for the sixth-year coach. Iowa State is just 5-19 in its past two seasons.

“I’ve talked about under coaching and over coaching. We’ll dissect all of that. We’ve got to become smarter by becoming simpler and just doing what we can do…instead of always (trying to) do too much,” Rhoads said on Saturday.

Injuries were a major factor in Iowa State’s first winless Big 12 season since 2008. Only four Cyclones started every game this season, exposing the program’s lack of depth.

“I’d like to finish with a Senior Day where we’re all padded up instead of going out in street clothes,” Rhoads said.

Iowa State lost star wide receiver Quenton Bundrage to a knee injury in the first quarter of the opener against North Dakota State. That would prove to be an ominous sign, as the Cyclones blew a 14-0 lead and fell at home to an FCS opponent for the second year in a row.

A close home loss to Kansas State and a win at rival Iowa the following week gave the Cyclones hope that they could still have a strong season. But a decisive loss to Baylor and a 37-20 defeat at Oklahoma State left the Cyclones at 1-4.

Iowa State then suffered another heartbreaking loss at Texas, 48-45, on Oct. 18. But that performance left some wondering if the Cyclones could make a late-season run against what was supposed to be an easier slate.

It quickly became apparent that it didn’t matter who Iowa State was playing.

The Cyclones were stunned at Kansas, 34-14, on Nov. 8. They finished the year with six straight losses.

But as dreary as it looks for Iowa State, there are signs that the Cyclones could engineer a coach-saving turnaround in 2015.

Iowa State will have a senior quarterback in Sam Richardson. Offensive coordinator Mark Mangino will likely be back for a second season, and he should have much more of a handle on what the Cyclones can do. Bundrage will also return. He’ll be flanked by emerging receiver D’Vario Montgomery and Allen Lazard, who lived up to his billing as one of the biggest recruits in school history with 45 catches as a true freshman.

Iowa State’s defense was forced to rely on multiple youngsters who weren’t ready to start as the injuries piled up. Those players should be better in 2015.

The Cyclones won’t lose much either, though they’ll be hard-pressed to replace tight end E.J. Bibbs, center Tom Farniok and defensive end Cory Morrissey. Iowa State will also need to find someone who can consistently run the football after underwhelming rushing attacks in recent years.

Iowa State should have a chance at a strong start after two straight seasons of front-loaded schedules. The Cyclones get Iowa at home in September and host Kansas in the Big 12 opener.

But there’s no doubt that 2015 will be a make or break season for Rhoads.

“Being 0-9 and being 2-10, that’s hard probably for an 18, 19, 20-year-old to fully grasp at this point,” Rhoads said. “We’re a lot closer than we are further away. But a lot has to take place to get over that hump.”

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Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP

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