Oklahoma State at Iowa State

Sports Xchange

November 08, 2017 at 3:17 pm.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Saturday, noon ET
SITE: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, Iowa
TV: ESPN2
SERIES: Oklahoma State leads 30-18-3. The Cowboys won 38-31 last season.
RANKINGS: Oklahoma State No. 15; Iowa State No. 21

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Cowboys

–RB Justice Hill rushed for a career-best 228 yards in the Nov. 4 loss to Oklahoma. The output broke the Oklahoma State record for rushing yards in a Bedlam game set in 1988 by Barry Sanders (215). The 100-yard performance was the sixth for Hill, the Big 12’s leading rusher with 1,064 yards, and was the most yards gained by an Oklahoma State rusher since 2010.

–WR James Washington recorded 128 yards receiving in the Oklahoma defeat, including his sixth catch this season of at least 50 yards before leaving with a second-half injury. His 127.7-yard average per game and 19.6-yard average per catch is tops in Big 12 play. His 125.9-yard receiving average on the season leads the nation.

–LB Calvin Bundage was caught twice for jumping offside in the Oklahoma loss, though his aggressiveness also paid off with two sacks among six tackles. The sophomore tried to score a touchdown by returning a first-quarter fumble to the end zone, but upon review the score was reversed after it was determined Oklahoma running back Abdul Adams never had control of a reception, which was eventually ruled incomplete.

Cyclones

–RB David Montgomery had another strong game on the ground, with 115 yards on 26 carries. He’s having an all-Big 12 kind of season, and has helped keep opponents focus away from the passing attack. Moreover, he’s hard to bring down. Only one of his carries last week went for a loss.

–WR/KR Trever Ryen is coming off a six-reception game, tying a career high. He also came close to breaking a punt return. Ryen’s always been a playmaker, and these last couple of weeks have seen Iowa State place more of an effort on getting him touches on offense as well as special teams.

–LB Joel Lanning had seven tackles last week, but one spot he was noticeably absent was on offense. He was on the sidelines in the team’s goal-line package, with Kyle Kempt under center instead. That didn’t work out so well, as ISU wasn’t able to punch the ball in from the 1-yard line. Look for him to get on the field in that role this week.

KEYS
TO THE GAME

Oklahoma State and Iowa State suffered setback Saturdays last weekend.

Major setbacks.

Now they seek bounce backs — against each other this Saturday — to save still potentially special seasons, with the No. 15-ranked Cowboys visiting the No. 21 Cyclones at Jack Trice Stadium.

Both fit into a four-way tie atop the Big 12 standings last week, although heading into what has become an elimination stretch of the conference schedule.

The Cowboys (7-2, 4-2 Big 12) lost in Bedlam, falling 62-52 to rival Oklahoma, all but ending their Big 12 and College Football Playoff hopes. Still, Oklahoma State’s reputation remains solid, along with its profile as a candidate for a major bowl.

“It’s important for me to instill in the players the importance of the next game,” said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy. “That’s why it’s beneficial for us that they can turn the tape on and watch what they (the Cyclones) have done against TCU and Oklahoma.”

The Cyclones (6-3, 4-2) upset TCU and Oklahoma during an impressive four-game winning streak that sent Iowa State’s stock surging upward. Then they fell at West Virginia, suffering a hit to their storybook season, but not irreparable damage. Iowa State still has a path to the Big 12 title game, and another upset over the Cowboys would strengthen that bid.

“It’s where you want to be in college football,” Cyclones coach Matt Campbell said. “You want to be in it, in November. If someone were to ask me that a year and a half ago, I don’t know if I would have said this is where we’d be. But that’s a great credit to these kids.”

Nobody pegged Iowa State for contention, but the Cyclones knocked off Oklahoma and TCU, now ranked No. 5 and 6 in the CFP rankings, respectively. The Cyclones were picked ninth, ahead of only Kansas, in the Big 12 preseason media poll.

Yet here they are, eligible for a bowl for the first time since 2012, and looking for more.

“I don’t think anybody could say they would have predicted that they would go on the road and beat Oklahoma,” Gundy said. “And then, as well as TCU is playing this year, that they could’ve beat them.

“They’re in every game, or they win against people that somebody thought they didn’t have a chance against. You watch them play, and they’re humble; they’re unselfish; they play hard; they’re in the right spot.”

The Cyclones have been on the spot defensively, ranking near the top of the conference in most of the major statistics, including second in scoring defense. Against Oklahoma, which runs an offense similar to the Cowboys, Iowa State dropped seven and eight into coverage successfully.

Oklahoma State figures to see something similar Saturday in an attempt to contain Cowboys quarterback Mason Rudolph — the league’s leading passer — and his array of explosive wide receivers.

“They do it well,” Rudolph said. “They’ve been very good defensively, holding teams down. But we’ve seen that style for two years now. We’ve seen it this year. And we’ve got a running game to help offset that.”

The Cowboys boast the Big 12’s top rusher in Justice Hill, coming off a career-best rushing day of 228 yards against the Sooners. Hill has rushed for 1,064 yards in nine games, good for an average of 118.2 per contest.

If Oklahoma State can run the ball effectively, it’ll force the Cyclones to commit more to stopping the run, opening up the offense for Rudolph and Co.

“They understand who they are and what they’re trying to accomplish,” Gundy said of the Cyclones’ defense. “They don’t take a lot of chances. They’re pretty smart and sound.”

Iowa State may need to rely on its defense to dictate the day, with an offense that has struggled to put up points at times. The Cyclones rank eighth in the conference in total offense — more than 200 yards behind the Cowboys. They’re seventh in scoring, averaging 30.6, again well behind league-leading Oklahoma State’s 45.3 average.

Still, Campbell’s squad already has faced and beaten teams with distinct stat advantages. And he doesn’t doubt his guys will be fully focused, despite coming off a disappointing loss.

“That’s the thing I love about these kids: win, lose, scoreboard, what it says, what it doesn’t say, I think, is really irrelevant,” Campbell said. “I think nothing showed that more than what happened Saturday. It was irrelevant. The scoreboard was what it is.

“If you keep playing and you keep fighting and you understand what’s not going well, (ask yourself), ‘How do you fix it?’ and then fix it — that’s football.”

 

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