AMES — Dangerous.
Physical and “not a pushover.”
Apt descriptions for the Big 12’s last-place team, Kansas?
They are for almost-bowl eligible Iowa State, which faces the improving, but still reeling Jayhawks in Saturday’s 6 p.m. Fox Sports Net-televised game at Lawrence.
“I know that they’re probably going to be saying in their locker room, ‘Let’s ruin Iowa State’s season,’” Cyclone defensive tackle Ben Durbin said. “‘Let’s make sure they don’t go to a bowl game.’ We’re looking at it as, ‘We’ve got to win this. We’ve got to go to a bowl game.’”
Therein lies the contrast between ISU (5-5, 2-5) and Kansas (1-9, 0-7).
The Cyclones are fighting once again for a .500 or better overall regular season record, and third bowl trip in four years.
The Jayhawks are striving to become relevant again — losers of 19 straight Big 12 games, and 30 straight against current conference teams.
Their last league win against a team not named Colorado, which bolted for the Pac-12, came Oct. 10, 2009.
The score? 41-36.
The opponent? Iowa State.
“They’re very inconsistent but they’re very close to putting together that great defensive effort against Texas (a 21-17 loss) and that great offensive effort against Texas Tech (41-34 loss in double overtime last week) and just exploding,” Woody said. “So you cannot, you absolutely cannot go into this with any sort of roll your helmet out there, expect to win (mentality).”
The Cyclones have been tabbed as 6.5-point favorites by Las Vegas oddsmakers, but recent history suggests anything but a runaway win is on the horizon.
ISU won 13-10 last season in Ames.
And Kansas can run the football successfully, ranking second in the Big 12 in rushing yards at 213.1 per game.
The Jayhawks also rank second among conference teams in time of possession (32:14 per game).
So smashmouth football is alive and well (if winless) — even in the Big 12.
“This is a game that, as defensive linemen, we’re loving it,” Durbin said. “We can’t wait. This is exciting for us and we’re going to be ready to play.”
Kansas features two highly-productive backs in James Sims and Tony Pierson.
Sims averages 125 rushing yards per game and has scored eight touchdowns.
Pierson averages 6.4 yards per carry and has reached the end zone four times (one receiving).
“They’re going to run downhill,” ISU nickelback Deon Broomfield said. “They’re going to run two tight end sets and two back sets. They’re going to try to establish the run game. That’s what they try to do first.”
Someday, that will lead to another KU win.
The Cyclones simply hope that comes later, rather then sooner.
“You’re looking for that extra edge,” Rhoads said when asked about how long-struggling teams eventually break through. “What’s going to get you over the top? Is it continuing to possess the ball the way they are? Is it continuing to run the football? Is it one more turnover or a key stop on third down? The more you emphasize all those things and you have a group of football players that buy into it, which they clearly do, you remain a dangerous football team. And they are a dangerous football team.”
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