Oct 3, 2015; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones wide receiver Allen Lazard (5) catches a touchdown pass in front of Kansas Jayhawks safety Michael Glatczak (39) at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — We spent 17 minutes with ISU coach Matt Campbell on Monday morning.
Not one of us asked him about Kansas.
Maybe we’re saving that for Wednesday evening, or maybe it’s just that a win over the woebegone Jayhawks on the road (11 a.m. Saturday, FSN) seems to be a foregone conclusion.
Either way, once the dust settles either the Cyclones (1-8, 0-6 Big 12) or Kansas (1-8, 0-6) will emerge as the program trudging back in the right direction — and out of the conference basement.
Just don’t necessarily expect it to come easily.
And don’t expect much hoopla in Lawrence, either. The Cyclones have toppled one Big 12 foe (Texas, last season) not named Kansas since the end of the 2013 season. The Jayhawks draw an average 26,385 fans and have lost five of the past six in the series.
“To be honest, I don’t really notice the crowds that much anymore, just because I’m used to environments, ” said ISU star receiver Allen Lazard, who snared five catches for 70 yards in his team’s 34-14 loss at Lawrence in 2014 and six catches for 75 yards and a touchdown in last season’s 38-13 win in Ames.
The Cyclones — who will be led by quarterbacks Joel Lanning and Jacob Park — desperately need a payoff after making progress in Campbell’s first season. ISU has led after halftime in four of its eight losses and appears to be slowly heading in the right direction as long as a dour detour doesn’t occur in Lawrence.
“KU’s a great team,” said Lanning, who’s emerged as the Cyclones’ more run-oriented co-starting quarterback. “I watched them play against West Virginia (a 48-21 loss) and they definitely got some pressure on the quarterback. They’re kind of like us. They’ve been battling with teams all year and just haven’t got the ball to bounce their way one time. Both teams have only got one win. For whatever reason that is, they’re probably trying to rebuild down there, too, kind of like we are. It’s going to be a great game. I’m expecting a battle. Both teams want to win, We don’t go out there trying to lose or anything like that.”
No they don’t.
I think they go out and compete,” Lazard said. “They have tremendous athletes and tremendous players. They have really good schemes and stuff, but obviously they’ve failed to execute and so have we. So we’ve just got to go out there and play hard and execute.”
The Jayhawks have lost 18 straight conference games since the goalpost-busting win over the Cyclones two seasons ago. ISU has dropped 12 straight Big 12 road games since a rousing triple-overtime comeback win at West Virginia to cap the 2013 campaign.
So let the chips fall where they may. Just pray the goalposts remain in tact this time.
“It’s always great to get a win under your belt in the Big 12 and this is our next opponent,” said cornerback Brian Peavy, whose had five pass breakups in the past three games. “So that’s where our eyes are focused at — on winning.”
QB CHANGE AT KU?: Kansas may give redshirt freshman quarterback Carter Stanley his first career start on Saturday. Why? Stanley completed nine of 11 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns in the second half at West Virginia. Incumbent starter Montell Cozart, meanwhile, left that game with concussion-like symptoms.
RUN IT: The Jayhawks rank ninth in the Big 12 in rushing defense, allowing 224.6 yards per game. That’s slightly worse than ISU (224.2) and considerably better than last-place Texas Tech (236). Translation: Expect a possible four-headed rushing monster from the Cyclones, with Lanning and running backs Mike Warren, David Montgomery and Kene Nwanagwu to carve out yards and establish tempo. Interestingly, the Jayhawks rank fourth in the Big 12 in sacks with 22 and ISU’s last in the league in sacks allowed with 30. Warren has rushed for 100 or more yards twice a game this season. He ran for 100 yards or more five times last season.