Coach Paul Rhoads upbeat about Iowa State future despite 2-9 showing

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    AMES, Iowa — Coach Paul Rhoads believes his Iowa State football team is headed in the right direction despite this season's miseries, and he's grateful that his boss agrees.

    Athletic director Jamie Pollard publicly voiced his support of Rhoads during the coach's weekly call-in radio show Monday night. Rhoads said Tuesday it was no different from what Pollard has been telling him all along.

    "Jamie and I have such an outstanding relationship and are in constant communication," Rhoads said. "The support, the encouragement he gave ... is the same thing he's been giving to me on a weekly basis as we hit this rough stretch in finishing up the season. He's aware of the philosophy, he's aware of the direction and certainly he's supportive of that."

    Iowa State (2-9, 0-8 Big 12) has lost five straight games and is likely to go without a conference victory for the first time since 2008, the year before Rhoads took over. The Cyclones are huge underdogs in their season finale at No. 4 TCU on Saturday.

    Rhoads took Iowa State to a bowl game in three of his first four seasons, but the Cyclones slipped to 3-9 a year ago and they've been worse in 2014. They've blown double-digit leads in four of their losses and a young defense is giving up 511 yards and 37 points a game.

    Pollard, though, appears to be solidly behind his coach, pointing out that building a winning program at Iowa State always has been a challenge.

    "That's what inspires all of us to be here, and it's to climb a mountain that others have never gotten to the top," Pollard said on the radio show. "I look forward to continuing that journey with coach Rhoads and hopefully getting there."

    Pollard also said that while he expects to win, he understands that a slew of injuries have contributed to this year's struggles. And he said the program is "closer to (success) than I think we're further away, and we look forward to continuing to climb that mountain."

    Nine players have been lost with season-ending injuries and two more stalwarts, tight end E.J. Bibbs and defensive lineman Brandon Jensen, might miss Saturday's game. Only four players have started every game this season.

    Still, coaches are judged on winning and there hasn't been much of that in Ames the last two years.

    "As I told you, Jamie and I have a great relationship," Rhoads said. "That doesn't mean he'll keep me if I keep losing. It's not that kind of relationship. This is a business world. We all get that. My plan is to win in 2015."

    Key players will return at almost every position to help in that effort, including quarterback Sam Richardson, most of his wide receivers, four offensive linemen from this year's rotation, four of the top linebackers and the entire defensive secondary. The Cyclones also are due for better luck with injuries, so it's reasonable to expect improvement next season.

    "We're going to be a better football team," Rhoads said. "We're going to have more experience, we're going to be physically more developed. We've got some key playmakers coming back. We've got the understanding of an offense two years running now. There are a lot of things that are in our favor as we go toward 2015."

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