AMES — Table the must-win talk.
Yes, Baylor — Saturday’s 6 p.m. opponent at Jack Trice Stadium — features one the nation’s most porous defenses on paper.
Sure, the Bears (3-3, 0-3 Big 12 Conference) are one of two remaining regular season foes not populating the BCS standings.
And yes, the Cyclones (4-3, 1-3) need two victories to reach their baseline goal of attaining bowl eligibility with teams such as Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia looming.
“The urgency is the same, always,” said Cyclone safety Durrell Givens, who totaled a team-high 12 tackles while forcing a fumble in Saturday’s 31-10 loss at Oklahoma State. “You’re always trying to get into a bowl. And if you get into a bowl, you want to get into a better bowl. You just want to win games, regardless.”
A little perspective:
In Coach Paul Rhoads’ first three seasons, his team never stood better than 4-3 through seven games.
In his two bowl-eligible seasons, ISU achieved its sixth win after already having at least four losses.
Panic’s not part of the Cyclones’ vocabulary — for good reason.
“We’re still above where most people would have thought we would have been right now,” said Rhoads, whose team, as of Tuesday afternoon, was listed by Las Vegas oddsmakers as a 2.5-point favorite. “We’re not satisfied. We know we can do better.”
Case in point …
“In my opinion, we’ve lost three games,” Rhoads continued. “We haven’t got beat three times. If at the end of the week on Saturday night I can put my head on a pillow because we got beat, I can do that. But losing three games makes me want to coach harder.”
So does facing the high-flying Bears, who, Rhoads noted, will bring the nation’s top passing offense and third-ranked scoring offense to Saturday’s Homecoming game, which will be televised on Fox Sports Net.
“They’ve got some shelves stocked and it shows,” Rhoads said.
Baylor — which saw 2011 Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III leave for the NFL — still averages 48 points per game.
The Cyclones have scored a combined 44 points in three conference losses.
And ISU’s quarterback situation, as Rhoads noted last weekend, has become a three-man slog between Jared Barnett, Steele Jantz and Sam Richardson.
Not that he want to talk about it.
“I’m just going to go mute, guys,” Rhoads said to quarterback questions from a variety of angles. “I’m just going to go mute.”
His team remains vocal about its postseason hopes, though — and they don’t hinge solely on this week’s performance.
“We’re getting around that time where you’ve got to make a run,” nickel back Deon Broomfield said. “I think everybody knows it, but we’re going to stay calm and urgent at the same time. Play like we need to play.”
LENZ, WHITE UPDATES: Rhoads said Tuesday he expects wide receiver Josh Lenz to be recovered enough from a quadriceps injury to play Saturday. “I’m counting on him to back,” Rhoads said of his big play receiver, who is averaging 15.5-yards per catch. As for tailback James White, who had knee surgery early last week? “He may be back Saturday,” Rhoads said. “He may not.”
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