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OSU FOOTBALL: Elimination game for Big 12 title chase

Reese Strickland / USA Today Sports
Iowa State coach Matt Campbell had turned his team into a Big 12 Conference contender in his second season as the Cyclones skipper.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma State and Iowa State, two teams that suffered close losses last Saturday, will fight it out Saturday (11 a.m. ABC) in Ames, Iowa hoping to climb back into the Big 12 Championship race.

The No. 15 Cowboys (7-2, 4-2, Big 12) lost to Oklahoma, 62-52, last weekend in Stillwater. After battling to a 38-38 halftime tie, the Sooners outscored the Pokes, 24-14, in the final 30 minutes. The No. 21 Cyclones (6-3, 4-2) trailed West Virginia, 20-0, and fought back to with 16 unanswered points and had a chance to win the game. ISU failed to convert on fourth down with less than three minutes in the game.

The Cyclones have taken down two highly ranked teams this year and are just 17 points from being undefeated. ISU stunned, third-ranked Oklahoma, 38-31, in Norman, and two weeks later, upset No. 4 TCU, 14-7. The Cyclones lost to Iowa, 44-41, in overtime, 17-7 to Texas, and the 20-16 loss to the Mountaineers.

With two conference losses apiece, OSU and I-State aren’t entirely out of the championship chase, but the loser at Jack Trice Stadium will be eliminated.

The Cyclones have been playing rugged defense allowing 18.9 points per game (20th nationally) but just 40 points in the last four contests. They even held the Sooners to 31 points, two touchdowns below OU’s average this season. ISU ranks 40th by yielding 361.1 yards per outing; 318.2 the last four games.

Quarterback-turned-linebacker Joel Lanning is leading the I-State defense with 94 tackles. He also has 6.5 for loss and 2.5 sacks and an interception, and he has occasionally used as a short-yardage quarterback. Linebackers Willie Harvey and JaQuan Bailey have combined for 15.5 stops behind the line and 6.5 sacks. End J.D. Waggoner leads the Cyclones with 8.5 tackles for loss including 2.5 sacks.

ISU’s offense ranks 50th in scoring (30.6 average) and 87th in total offense (378.7 average). Senior quarterback Kyle Kempt has started the last five games after Jacob Park quit the team before the Oklahoma game. Kempt is completing 67 percent of his passes and thrown for 1,108 yards and 10 TDs. He’s thrown a TD pass in all five games he’s started. He’s also thrown 3 interceptions.

Allan Lazard is his No. 1 target pulling in 44 receptions for 526 yards and 6 TDs. The senior wideout ISU’s career leader in receptions (214) and100-yard receiving games (10). Running back David Montgomery is the team’s leading rusher with 831 yards and 8 scores.

Iowa State is the only team in the nation without a lost fumble this season and hasn’t fumbled in 631 consecutive offensive plays dating back to last season. The Cyclones rank 10th nationally in turnover margin (+10), winning the turnover battle in the six games they’ve won. ISU ranks 13th nationally in turnovers lost (8). 20. I-State is one of the least penalized teams in the nation, ranking fourth with 34 penalties.

The Cowboys own the nation's No. 2 offense in both yards per game (579.4) and points per game (45.3), as well as the No. 3 passing offense (379.2). Quarterback Mason Rudolph leads the nation in passing yards, passing yards per game and points responsible for, and is among the national leaders in nearly every passing statistic. He's thrown for more than 300 yards in eight of his last 10 games and recently broke Mike Gundy's OSU record for wins as a starting quarterback.

OSU’s top receiver James Washington injured his ankle against the Sooners and is not expected to play against the Cyclones. Washington, who had 7 catches for 128 yards and a TD in the Bedlam game, is the country’s leading receiver with 52 receptions for 1,133 yards and 9 scores. The Pokes still have plenty of weapons in the receiving corps. Marcel Ateman and Tyron Johnson each scored twice against OU.

Running back Justice Hill is one of the nation’s top ball carriers (14th) with 1,064 yards. He’s rushed for more than 100 yards in five of his last six games, including a career-best 228-yard outing last week.

The Pokes defense, which showed promise in a win over West Virginia two weeks ago, was burned for 785 yards by Oklahoma. Safety Tre Flowers is OSU’s leading tackler this year with 50 stops. End Jordan Brailford leads with .5 tackles for loss including 4 sacks. Cornerback A.J. Green had an interception against OU to raise his total to a team-leading 3 picks.

OSU beat Iowa State in the last two contests by seven and four points respectively. The Cowboys have won five straight in the series since dropping a 37-31 decision in Ames six years ago. That was the Pokes only loss that season, which and knocked them from a national championship berth.

Trailing the Cyclones, 31-21, after three quarters, OSU scored 17 points in the fourth to win, 38-31 last year in Stillwater. Two years ago, the Cowboys trailed by the same score after three periods and scored 14 unanswered points for a 35-31 victory in Ames.

The Cyclones know if they win out, they’re in the Big 12 Championship Game in three weeks. The Cowboys have a well-balanced offense and need to mix up the run and pass throughout the game. Iowa State needs to own the clock to keep Rudolph and Co. off the field as much as possible.

 

FAST FACTS

*OSU leads the series 38-18-3 including five straight wins.

*OSU leads 13-12-1 in Ames including two straight victories.

*OSU is favored by 6.5.

*OSU coach Mike Gundy’s record: 111-52 (.681) overall; 7-2 vs. ISU; 39-26 on the road; 67-41 vs. Big 12 opponents; 21-31 vs. ranked foes.

*ISU coach Matt Campbell’s record: 44-27 .620) overall; at ISU: 9-12; 0-1 vs. OSU; 6-9 vs. Big 12 foes; 2-4 vs. ranked teams.

*OSU is 8-5 in games played on November 11.

*ISU is 8-9-2 in games played on November 11.

*Both teams have met once on Veteran’s Day; ISU won 28-15 in 1978.

 

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Ray Dozier

Ray Dozier is the author of Legends of Oklahoma Sooners Football and two editions of The...

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