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Julio Cortez, AP Photo
Iowa State defensive back Jeremy Reeves (5) reacts in the third quarter of the Pinstripe Bowl NCAA college football game against Rutgers, Friday, Dec. 30, 2011, at Yankee Stadium in New York. Rutgers won 27-13.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa State began the year with a narrow win over an FCS team on a hot September night. The Cyclones ended 2011 with a disappointing 27-13 loss to Rutgers on a frigid December afternoon in Yankee Stadium.

In between those two dates, they managed to produce a roller-coaster 6-7 season.

Iowa State won their first three games with thrilling fourth-quarter rallies, then crashed hard with four straight losses to open Big 12 play. The Cyclones stunned Texas Tech behind new quarterback Jared Barnett and turned the national title picture upside-down by beating then-No. 2 Oklahoma State in overtime on Nov. 18.

The Cyclones managed to become nationally relevant — just three years after Gene Chizik's jump to Auburn left the program in turmoil.