AMES - Looking at the season as a whole, 2010 can't be called a disappointment for the Iowa State football squad.
By just about anyone's measure the Cyclones overachieved, though a losing record (5-7) won't sit well with Coach Paul Rhoads.
"You play college football to compete and play in bowl games," Rhoads noted late Saturday night after a shutout loss to Missouri in the season-finale.
"It is very disappointing with this team," he added. "We had opportunities to get to six (wins) and beyond and we didn't get them."
Remember, though, Iowa State faced one of the toughest schedules in the nation - which included showdowns with five top-15 teams. The October lineup was the dictionary definition of a gauntlet with games against tradition-rich programs Utah, Oklahoma and Texas in consecutive weeks.
The injury bug also bit Iowa State at a few unfortunate times, as quarterback Austen Arnaud and senior center Ben Lamaak were sidelined for key stretches.
But 2010 wasn't without its high points, either. When Iowa State blasted Texas Tech on Oct. 2, it scored the program's most points ever (52) against a Big 12 opponent. The 27-0 win against in-state foe Northern Iowa marked Iowa State's first shutout since 2004. The Oct. 23 win at Texas was a monumental achievement, marking the Cyclones' first road win over a ranked team since 1990.
Heck, even the Week 1 win over Northern Illinois looks pretty impressive now, considering the Huskies currently sit at 9-2 overall.
Now, it's time for Iowa State to take inventory and assess its roster for 2011.
Looking ahead, the shelves need to be re-stocked at safety, but that's about it. Quarterback and offensive line also look like slight question marks.
Sophomore signal-caller Jerome Tiller had a chance to become the team's unquestioned new leader against Missouri Saturday, but, after the Texan's 13-for-31 passing performance, Rhoads said the quarterback battle will be "wide open" come spring.
"He felt a large burden on his shoulders," Rhoads said of Tiller after Saturday's loss. "Overall, I thought he responded to it pretty well. Did he play a perfect game? Not even close.
"No, we'll go into spring with a wide-open (quarterback) competition," Rhoads added.
A wild-card in the 2011 quarterback competition might be redshirt-freshman-to-be Jared Barnett, an agile 6-foot, 196-pound three-star recruit from Garland, Texas.
Rhoads and his coaching staff need to pound the pavement as soon as possible on the recruiting path. Rivals.com ranks Iowa State's class as last in the Big 12; Iowa State has 17 commits for next year and none rank better than three stars.
The Cyclones will once again face an imposing schedule. Iowa State will almost assuredly be an underdog in 10 games next season.
"In the offseason," said Tiller, "we just need to get things done and get the ball rolling to prepare for next season."