AMES — Hook ‘em Clones?
In Iowa State safety Durrell Givens’ mind, when more than 100,000 fans raise their voices for BCS No. 17 Texas in Saturday’s 11 a.m. Big 12 game at Darrell K. Royal Stadium in Austin, they’ll convey an unintended message.
“You always get hyped, it’s like, ‘Ah, the fans and the crowd,’” said Givens, the national leader in takeaways with eight. “The way I look at it is if I’m away and the crowd is cheering for the offense, I take it as if they’re cheering for me. I’m like, ‘Yeah they’re cheering for me,’ even though they’re not my cheers. A psychological thing.”
The Cyclones (5-4, 2-4) crave every edge they can get — mental and otherwise — against the resurgent, storied and roughly 10-point favorite Longhorns (7-2, 4-2).
The teams’ recent history has been stormy and unpredictable, with ISU forging a 28-21 upset win on the road in 2010 and stumbling in every conceivable way in a 37-14 loss at home last season.
“we got outcoached and we got outplayed a year ago,” said Cyclone coach Paul Rhoads, whose team is one win away from being bowl eligible for the third time in his four seasons. “We were a hot football team. We were 3-0 and had a chance, (after) an open date, to make some national noise against them and they came out in the first half and just put it on us.”
The training tables have turned, in terms of momentum.
Now — three weeks removed from a torches-and-pitchforks-summoning 63-21 loss to Oklahoma — Texas is riding high again.
The youthful Longhorns have won three straight games, with the most impressive victory coming last week, 31-22, at Texas Tech.
“They’re Texas,” ISU center Tom Farniok said. “They can pick any recruit that they want, literally, so you know you’re going to be playing against good players, so, you know, for someone like me who wasn’t supposed to be able to play at that level, it’s always a fun game, because you always have that chip on their shoulder.”
Speaking of chips, the Longhorns’ are all blue — and mostly young.
They feature just two senior starters on defense, but those starters are named Alex Okafor (defensive end) and Kenny Vaccaro (free safety).
Okafor, the Big 12’s leader in sacks with eight, is tabbed as the top pro prospect at his position by NFLDraftScout.com.
Vaccaro is slotted second nationally at his position by the same site.
“(Texas was) 6-2 a week ago and people were challenging them and questioning them,” Rhoads said. “But it’s guys like that who have been around that long that step up and lead in the locker room, on the practice field and back in the cafeteria in the apartments and things like that.”
They do it on game day, too, along with offensive producers such as quarterback David Ash and receiver Jaxon Shipley.
They’re Texas and they perform in an always-full, sixth-largest stadium in the country, whether cheered or jeered.
“When you think of quote, unquote, college football royalty, you think Alabama, you think, Texas, you think Oklahoma, you think Notre Dame,” ISU running back Jeff Woody said. “They’re as tradition-rich as any other program in the country.”
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