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October 18, 2012

Pushover no more

As the clock slowly ticks closer and closer to Oklahoma State's homecoming game on Saturday, Cowboys know what's coming.

Iowa State is the biggest trap team in the Big 12 Conference over the last several years, whether home or away.

Last season, the Pokes found out the hard way when they visited.

"What happens is you fly in, stay a long ways away, then you get in a bus and drive over there," coach Mike Gundy said. "You go out on that field and the grass is long. It's unlike what we play on down here. We play on grass fields, but it's manicured to perfection. That's a northern grass (at Iowa State), it feels different."

This year, the Cyclones are coming to Stillwater after nearly upsetting Kansas State in Ames last weekend. Even though they were included in the BCS Rankings released this week, Iowa State is an underdog coming into Stillwater.

You know the Iowa State's wanting respect coming into this situation, and you know they have another upset of Oklahoma State on their minds.

But how do they do it?

It starts at the top, and Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads has done it right by building an impressive program there since he was hired in 2009.

Instead of identifying with the Oklahoma State's and Texas Tech's of their conference by implementing an air-it-out offense, Rhoads chose the path that Kansas State and Texas take, and placed his emphasis defense.

After a few years at the helm, he now has one of the toughest defensive units in the Big 12, currently ranking in the top 5 in the conference in just about every statistical category.

"They just play good football," Gundy said. "If you watch their games, you don't see things that are flashy. Like when you watch Texas, they made a bunch of flashy plays, breaking tackles, breaking bubble screens. You just don't see that against Iowa State."

The defense is built around two anchors in the middle in senior linebackers Jake Knott and A.J. Klein. The duo has combined for 107 total tackles this year, and rank 5th and 6th in the Big 12 in the category.

Their presence is noticed, as teams have only been able to rush for 126 yards per game against the Cyclones, which ranks as the fourth-best in the conference.

Not only are the backers, and the overall unit, good at what they do, but they also make the opponent bad at what they're trying to do. Their confusing schemes and frustratingly smash-mouth style of play has forced the other team into 40 penalties this season, which is the most in the conference this season over Texas and West Virginia's 38.

Long story short, don't expect an easy game on Saturday. Iowa State may not put up the points needed to beat the Cowboys again, but it's likely that Knott and Klein won't let their unit give up that many points either.

By doing that week in and week out, Iowa State puts themselves in position to pull college football's biggest upsets against any opponent, and they'll be aiming to do it again this Saturday in Stillwater.


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