Ranked Cyclones get another shot at a top team
AMES — Remember that Oklahoma State on-the-field afterglow?
Iowa State’s first win ever win over an Associated Press top six-rated team?
National TV on a crisp autumn 2011 night; “BCS Chaos,” as one ESPN commentator put it?
Iowa State all-Big 12 conference linebacker Jake Knott most definitely does.
And he and the USA Today/coaches No. 25 Cyclones get a chance to create more upheaval in today’s 11 a.m. FX-televised Big 12 game against No. 5/6 Kansas State at Jack Trice Stadium.
“To do that type of thing at home and see all the fans and how excited they are and how much they care about this program and this university, it’s something you can’t really put a name on or a price on,” said Knott, who helped seal that 37-31 double overtime triumph win over the conference champion Cowboys by tipping a late interception. “ But its something that absolutely makes everything worth it.”
About those fans ...
They’re noisily poised to make history while their team (4-1, 1-1) tries to take down the Collin Klein-led Wildcats (5-0, 2-0) after four straight losses to them by eight points or less.
ISU athletics director Jamie Pollard said Wednesday he expected a sellout. He got one — along with a new single-game attendance record.
By early Thursday afternoon, 56,800 tickets had been sold, five more than were distributed in a 2007 game against Northern Iowa.
That makes four straight crowds of 54,000-plus, an unprecedented string of turnstile-based success in Ames.
“(It’s) the sum of a lot of parts,” Pollard said of spiking attendance under Cyclone coach Paul Rhoads. “But I think the biggest thing is we’ve had some moments now that have captured people’s imagination and they don’t want to miss out on the next one. So that breeds an environment where people go from saying, ‘I’ll just buy a couple single games,’ to saying, ‘I want to be there all the time.’”
ISU hopes its first appearance in a top-25 poll in seven years leads to a lengthy stay among the FBS elite.
To do that, wins over top-10 teams need to become merely notable, not monumental.
Beating then-No. 15/13 TCU 37-23 on the road last week is a step.
FInding a way to top one of the nation’s soundest teams, K-State, constitutes a leap.
“I guess we’re still going out there trying to prove something to every single person and show them that Iowa State is changed,” said Knott, who notched 13 tackles and an interception against the Horned Frogs. “This Iowa State — it’s a new brand of football here and we want to prove that every week.”
Proof will have to come from both sides of the ball.
Wildcats Collin Klein and John Hubert stoke a rushing offense that ranks ninth nationally at 263.8 yards per game.
Klein throws it sparingly but efficiently, with nine touchdown tosses and two interceptions.
“It feels like you can’t get off the field and stop them,” said Rhoads, who is 6-5 in Big 12 home games in three-plus seasons. “He’s the reason for that.”
ISU quarterback Jared Barnett makes his second start of the season.
He threw a single-game career-high-tying three touchdowns to one interception at TCU and found receiver Josh Lenz on all three scoring passes.
Lenz got hurt in the Oklahoma State win last season — and the pain lingered the rest of the regular season.
He’s healthy now and primed for a big-time reprise, minus the injury.“The fans are real excited and we’ve just got to keep giving them a reason to be excited,” Lenz said. “We can’t come out flat this week. We’ve just got to play our game and things will work out.”