Cowboys hit trail to tangle with Cyclones

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Updated: 10/23/2013 11:15 am

Ames, IA (SportsNetwork.com) - With the embarrassment of last week's debacle in Waco still lingering, the Iowa State Cyclones will try to pick up the pieces as they play host to the 19th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys in Big 12 Conference action on Saturday.

Oklahoma State is 5-1 on the season, and has bounced back from a 30-21 loss at West Virginia in the conference opener to take out both Kansas State (33-29) and TCU (24-10) to get back into the race for the Big 12 title. Following this clash, the Cowboys will play at Texas Tech, and will close the regular season with three tough games against Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma.

Iowa State took it on the chin last week at Baylor, suffering a 71-7 defeat to the nation's top scoring team. It was the second straight setback and fifth in six tries for the Cyclones this season. Their lone victory came in a 38-21 decision at Tulsa on Sept. 26.

Oklahoma State owns a 26-18-3 lead in the all-time series with Iowa State, and the Pokes won last year's meeting, 31-10. However, the Cyclones are 12-11-1 versus OSU in Ames.

With an offense that ranks third in the Big 12 in scoring (35.7 ppg) and fourth in yards (440.2 ypg), Oklahoma State has demonstrated an ability to move the ball and light up the scoreboard pretty much against all comers this season. The pass is the Cowboys weapon of choice more times than not, what with quarterbacks J.W. Walsh and Clint Chelf both seeing time, and the former hitting on nearly 60 percent of his throws for 1,324 yards, nine TDs and five interceptions. Chelf is a 54.5 percent passer who has amassed only 471 yards, but has three scoring strikes against only one pick. Josh Stewart is the team's leading receiver with 31 grabs for 473 yards and a pair of TDs, while the OSU run game relies heavily on Walsh (284 yards, three TDs) and Jeremy Smith (247 yards, seven TDs) to do the bulk of the heavy lifting.

Defensively, the Cowboys allow the third-fewest points in the Big 12 (18.3 ppg), with their effort against the run (117.5 ypg) yielding far better results than that versus the pass (237.7 ypg). Proving to be an opportunistic bunch as well, OSU ranks first in the league in turnover margin (+7), but last in time of possession (25:19), meaning the defense is on the field for longer stretches of time. They rank second in red zone defense (.722). Caleb Leavey paces the unit with 45 tackles, and his 6.5 TFL rank second behind the eight credited to Tyler Johnson, of which four are sacks. Justin Gilbert has three of the team's 12 picks, while Lavey, Daytawion Lowe and Shaun Lewis each have a pair.

In last week's 14-point win over TCU, both Walsh and Chelf took snaps, with the latter coming on in relief to throw for 178 yards with an interception. Stewart finished with 10 grabs for 141 yards, in what was another dominating effort by the talented wideout. As for the run game, it accounted for only 95 yards, with Rennie Childs leading the way with 45 yards and a TD on only nine carries.

The Cowboys turned in a solid effort on the defensive side of the ball last time out, holding the Horned Frogs to 325 yards, including just 126 on the ground. TCU turned the ball over four times, three of them being picks, and Lowe paced the Pokes with six stops.

While acknowledging his team can certainly play better, OSU head coach Mike Gundy knows that you can't get too high or too low following one game, and that the season as a whole is a marathon, not a sprint.

"It was a great win for us. It's week-to-week in this league. In the long haul for us, we have to do a better job at taking care of the football and minimizing mistakes. We need to continue to improve the kicking game and make plays on defense."

Iowa State failed to mount much of an attack against Baylor last week, finishing with a meager total of 174 yards, only 41 of which came on the ground. The Cyclones punted 10 times, committed three turnovers, and didn't score their first and only touchdown of the game until the final minute of regulation. Sam B. Richardson went 7-of-14 for 68 yards with an interception, while Aaron Wimberly ran for 21 yards, 18 of which came on one of his five totes in the game.

The Iowa State defense was gouged for a staggering 714 total yards (291 rushing, 423 passing), and was the fourth team this season that the Bears hung at least 70 points on. Jeremiah George was a busy guy, logging 18 tackles for the Cyclones, who also got 12 stops from Jacques Washington and 10 from Sam E. Richardson.

Sam B. Richardson is a 56.8 percent passer who has thrown for 1,255 yards, 10 TDs and five picks, and Quenton Brundage paces the receivers with 25 receptions for 391 yards and four scores. Wimberly leads the ground assault, what their is of one, with 388 yards and two TDs. Overall, the Cyclones average just 3.4 ypc and have scored a total of seven rushing TDs. The bigger picture sees the team putting up 25.2 ppg, behind 131.8 ypg on the ground and 220.0 ypg through the air.

Opponents are lighting up the scoreboard to the tune of 36.7 ppg, which happens to the be the worst yield in the Big 12. The Cyclones are also the worst in the league at defending the pass (293.2 ypg), which saddles them with the worst overall defense as well (492.0 ypg). They are on the positive side of the ledger with regard to turnover margin (+3), but they have the second- fewest sacks (10) while giving up the most (23).

George is averaging double-digit tackles per game, having made 69 to date, while Washington checks in with 62 stops. George has 2.5 sacks and a pick to his credit, but the team as a whole has intercepted only two passes thus far.

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