AMES — Oklahoma.
The mere mention of it can make long-time Iowa State fans shudder, dredging up bitter memories of 50-point spankings throughout the decades.
“Iowa State University’s football record against Oklahoma is dismal,” Cyclone coach Paul Rhoads said Monday. “And our guys know that.”
So Jake Knott-less ISU has set upon changing it.
The Cyclones (5-3, 2-3 Big 12) face the BCS No. 12 Sooners (5-2, 3-1) in Saturday’s 11 a.m. ABC-televised game at Jack Trice Stadium.
Oklahoma hasn’t lost to ISU since 1990, spinning off 13 series wins in a row, including a 52-0 rout two years ago in Norman.
That might as well be ancient history, though, as the Cyclones seek to gain bowl eligibility sooner rather than later.
“We’re starting a new tradition and when we look at what coach (Rhoads) has done since he’s been here, the teams we haven’t beat are Oklahoma and Kansas State,” ISU running back Jeff Woody said. “Those are the two teams, you don’t want to say they’re a red-letter game, but you really want this one, because it does give you validity.”
The Sooners dropped out of the national championship conversation earlier than usual by losing 24-19 at home to K-State and 30-13 last week in Norman to Notre Dame.
But Oklahoma — an 11- to 12-point favorite according the Las Vegas oddsmakers — still ranks among the nation’s top 20 in nine major statistical categories, including scoring offense (13th, 40.1 points); total offense (20th, 473.9 yards); and scoring defense (16th, 17.4 points).
“They’re not gods but they’re a great team,” said ISU offensive lineman Carter Bykowski, who hopes to punch holes in the Sooners’ 50th-rated run defense. “Up front, they’re big, so we’ve got to make sure we’re firing on all cylinders. It will take that to get a ‘W’ this weekend.”
Speaking of cylinders, the Cyclones already are down one (or more) because of Knott’s shoulder surgery.
Trying to compensate for the all-American linebacker’s loss will require a fluid, multi-pronged approach.
ISU could use Deon Broomfield in its nickel package even more.
Linebackers A.J. Klein and Jeremiah George could slide around to make room for backups Jevohn Miller and Matt Morton when the situation warrants.
“You can’t panic,” Rhoads said.
Knott will still serve a critical role with the team — part assistant coach, part sounding board, part advisor.
“Doing whatever I can,” said the NFL prospect, who faces a three-month recovery. “Whether it’s getting a guy a bottle of water or watching film with them for two extra hours.”
It’s all hands on deck when the Landry Jones-led Sooners come to town.
“We’ll have to play really well to stay in the stadium,” Rhoads said.
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