Record: 7-7 In order to prove that his success wasn't just an anomaly, Dan McCarney needed a fruitful third season after successful 2000 and 2001 campaigns. And 2002 proved to be just that. With Seneca Wallace at quarterback and Hiawatha Rutland and Michael Wagner in the backfield, the Cyclones flourished, beginning with a near-miss against No. 3 Florida State to start the season. They then compiled a six-game winning streak in which they defeated No. 20 Nebraska and soared to an all-time program high of No. 9 in the AP poll. ISU would taper off at the end of the season, only winning one of six games after being routed by No. 2 Oklahoma, but it proved it could hang with the best teams in the Big 12. Ironically enough, however, the Cyclones suffered their worst season in six years in 2003, posting a 2-10 record.
Getty ImagesMatthew Stockman
2009: Rhoads gets rolling
Record: 7-6 After a rough final season under Dan McCarney and two seasons of struggle under Gene Chizik, Iowa State needed a burst of life, and Paul Rhoads provided it upon his arrival in Ames. However, Rhoads didn't exactly get off on the best foot. The Cyclones were demolished, 35-3, by instate rival Iowa at home in only his second game as ISU's head coach. However, thanks to a pair of juniors, versatile quarterback Austen Arnaud and running back Alexander Robinson, the Cyclones quickly turned things around. They not only competed with the top talent in the Big 12 but went on to shock Nebraska on the road in game in which they were 18.5-point underdogs. Best of all, Iowa State capped off the season with a bowl victory, its first in five seasons, and notched seven wins after only tallying a collective nine in the prior three seasons.
Getty ImagesChristian Petersen
2004: Division co-champs
Record: 7-5 After failing to win a conference game and spiraling on a 10-game skid to end the season in 2003, the 2004 season was a huge turnaround. Thanks in large part to freshman tandem, quarterback Bret Meyer and receiver Todd Blythe, ISU put together a four-game winning streak during conference play. Those would prove to be the only conference wins they'd achieve in 2004, but a weak northern division allowed the Cyclones to tie for first place in the division with a 4-4 conference record. This marked ISU's first divisional Big 12 title and also stood as the first time it finished atop a conference or division since 1912. Colorado, its co-champ, held the regular season advantage and advanced to the Big 12 championship game, but would lose to Oklahoma, 42-3, and get routed the following year, 70-3, by Texas in the championship game.
2005: Taking top teams by storm
Record: 7-5 The Cyclones set the tone for the season early on — but not right away. In its season opener, Iowa State struggled to top Division I-AA opponent Illinois State, which raised some eyebrows around Ames. However, the Cyclones came out ready to play against Iowa, which was then ranked No. 8 in the nation. In a nationally televised game, ISU embarrassed the Hawkeyes, holding them to a mere field goal. Strangely enough, the Cyclones scored all of their points in the 23-3 victory off turnovers. The win not only granted them the Cy-hawk Trophy, but landed them a spot in the Top 25. Iowa State proved its success against tough competition was no fluke by beating No. 22 Colorado as well. Had it not faltered in its final two games of the season, both lost in heartbreaking fashion, the 2005 team would've been considered one of ISU's best.
Getty ImagesG. N. Lowrance
2000: One for the ages
Record: 9-3 Iowa State's best season of the century occurred exactly on the turn of the century. In 2000, the Cyclones, coached by Dan McCarney, notched a nine-win season for only the second time in program history (the other was in 1906). Prior to that season, it had taken Iowa State all four seasons it had been in the newly expanded Big 12 to achieve that tally of victories. Led by an unstoppable rushing crew, which included dual-threat quarterback, Sage Rosenfels, who ran in 10 TDs that season, the Cyclones plowed through their opponents. Running back Ennis Haywood led the charge with 1,311 yards and eight TDs. After posting an 8-3 regular season record — only losing to No. 2 Nebraska, No. 19 Kansas State, and Texas Tech in Big 12 play — the Cyclones made history, winning the program's first bowl game in its 109-year existence.