Earle Bruce came to Iowa State after guiding Tampa University to the Tangerine Bowl in his first year as a collegiate coach. He had previously served as an assistant to legendary Ohio State coach Woody Hayes.
Bruce’s career opened with a 48-0 thrashing of Idaho. Bruce’s squad notched a 4-7 mark, losing four games by a total of 13 points. The season was highlighted by consecutive upsets over No. 14 Missouri and No. 18 Oklahoma State in Ames.
Perhaps the finest season in Iowa State history came in 1976, Bruce’s fourth season at the helm. That squad finished 8-3 and ranked 18th in the nation, yet were denied bowl bids by the selection committees. The Cyclones were second in the nation in total offense, averaging a school-record 439.6 yards per game. Bruce was named Big Eight Coach of the Year and four of his players were selected first-team all-conference.
Bruce and his Cyclones did accept bowl bids in 1977 and 1978. The 1977 Cyclones, behind captains Mike Tryon, Kevin Cunningham, Tom Randall and Tom Boskey, notched an 8-3 regular season mark and a bid to the Peach Bowl. Iowa State fell to North Carolina State, 24-14, in front of 36,733 fans in Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium. The Cyclones stayed in the bowl picture in 1978, traveling to the Hall of Fame Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., after an 8-3 mark. Iowa State was led offensively by All-America running back Dexter Green. The Cyclone back was brilliant in the Hall of Fame Bowl, rushing for 148 yards in the 28-12 loss to Texas A&M.
Following the Hall of Fame Bowl, Bruce resigned to become the head coach at Ohio State. He replaced legendary Buckeye coach Woody Hayes. Bruce, Big Eight Coach of the Year in 1976 and 1977, ended his Cyclone career with a 36-32 mark.