Oct 8, 2016; Stillwater, OK, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys safety Tre Flowers (31) breaks up a pass to Iowa State Cyclones wide receiver Deshaunte Jones (8) during the second half at Boone Pickens Stadium. Oklahoma State won 38-31. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports
If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever. — Thomas Aquinas
AMES — Joel Lanning refused to let the blame fall upon Allen Lazard.
And vice versa.
The two Iowa State juniors — and duly elected captains — jockeyed for position when it came to accepting responsibility for two straight fourth-quarter collapses that framed tight and disappointing losses to Baylor and Oklahoma State.
“It’s completely on us players — us leaders of the team,” said Lazard, one of the Big 12’s best receivers. “we’ve got to go out there and finish the fourth quarter. I (had) a few crucial drops. There’s times I could have stepped up and made plays and helped us (move) in the right direction and I didn’t so I’ve got to improve.”
When informed of Lazard’s frank and unsparing self-assessment, Lanning offered up one of his own.
“He said he dropped a ball or something, whatever,” said Lanning, who hopes to lead ISU to its first Big 12 win of the season Saturday at Texas (2-3, 0-2). “I probably could have put the ball in a better place so he wasn’t falling down or didn’t have to dive on two third downs. It’s literally just like the little things that no one understands really until you watch the film and see it. If we convert on those two three downs the game might have a different outcome. Who knows what could happen. But that’s just a leader taking responsibility and I’m the same way. There’s some things that I could have done differently. I missed a few things here and there that I could have done differently and it might have changed the game. But we’re going to learn from those mistakes and not going to let it affect us this week.”
Now the Cyclones (1-5, 0-3 Big 12) drill deep into the heart of the Lone Star State against the once-mighty and now-embattled Longhorns.
ISU trounced Texas 24-0 in Ames last season. Those who dress in shades of burnt orange have not forgotten that shellacking.
“We need to play well,” UT coach Charlie Strong said in this week’s Big 12 coaches’ teleconference. “We haven’t played well the last three weeks.”
“Right now we’re sitting at 1-5 and it’s not looking too good, but that doesn’t count us out,” senior cornerback Jay Jones said. “I think we need to focus more on getting the win than trying to focus on how not to lose the game in the fourth quarter. I think that should be the focus: ‘Let’s just win.’”
Should be and must be.
Of ISU’s last nine losses, five have come after it held a fourth quarter lead. And since the Texas triumph, the Cyclones have dropped nine of 10 games.
That stings everyone — be it a restless fan base, or a hungry and accountable group of players and coaches, led by their captains.
“Just to let two wins that you should have had slip away, yeah, it’s very frustrating,” Lanning said. “But I think for the most part everybody’s heads are pretty high right now knowing that we’re competing and we’re trying to change this thing around. We always talk about how close we are. Kind of getting tired of saying the word “close” all the time. We’ve just got to take that next step. We’re doing that in practice. We’ve just got to take it to the game field and make it happen there.”