Ames, Iowa Iowa State had an extra week to try to figure out how to slow down Oklahoma State’s high-powered offense.
The Cyclones could’ve had a month off, and it still might not matter.
Iowa State will face by far its biggest test yet when it hosts the second-ranked Cowboys (10-0, 7-0 Big 12) on Friday night in a rare nationally televised game for the Cyclones.
Oklahoma State is averaging nearly 52 points a game, second in the nation. Last week, the Cowboys scored 49 in the first half of a 66-6 drubbing of Texas Tech.
Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said Monday that the Cowboys might have the best offense he’s seen in his coaching career.
“This offensive football team is scary explosive,” Rhoads said.
If the Cyclones (5-4, 2-4) are going to derail Oklahoma State’s national title aspirations, they’ll have to figure out how to slow quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon.
Weeden, a 28-year-old senior, has thrust himself into the Heisman Trophy conversation with 3,635 yards passing and 31 touchdowns — 14 to Blackmon.
“Weeden is a phenomenal quarterback, and I don’t see any weaknesses or blemishes to his game,” Rhoads said. “That maturity, that intelligence is certainly paying off for that football program.”
Blackmon has more TD grabs than anyone in the country, and he’s had 32 catches for 480 yards and six touchdowns in just the last three games.
The task of covering Blackmon will likely fall to 5-foot-10 cornerback Leonard Johnson, who’ll be giving away at least three inches on Blackmon, though the entire secondary will need to pitch in.
It’s not like the Cowboys live and die by their passing game, either. Sophomore running back Joseph Randle is third in the league with 993 yards rushing, and he’s got 21 touchdowns.
“There are no weaknesses. They’re exceptionally well-coached. The offensive line is a dominant group. Everyone is aware of their skill,” Rhoads said. “Nobody even breathes on their quarterback. They’re deep and talented at wide receiver. They’re running for (171) yards a game and Weeden, he does not miss throws.”
If there’s a glimmer of hope, it’s that the Cyclones have gotten better on defense over the past month. Iowa State allowed 37, 49 and 52 points in its first three Big 12 games — all big losses — before holding Texas A&M to 33 in a 16-point loss. The payoff came a week later at Texas Tech, when Iowa State jumped out to an early 21-0 lead and forced the Red Raiders to become one-dimensional offensively. The Cyclones had little trouble disrupting Tech’s passing game in a 41-7 win.
Iowa State then held woeful Kansas to just 301 yards of offense in a 13-10 win on Nov. 5, and it used last week’s bye to further prepare for Oklahoma State.
The Cyclones rank last in the Big 12 in scoring defense, but they’re second in passing defense with just 217.3 yards allowed per game. Of course, they have not faced anyone like Weeden, who is completing 73 percent of his passes and is averaging 363 yards a game.
“Weeden can diagnose the defense in a split second and put it only where his wide receiver can get it, every single time. I mean, I watched six of their games from start to finish and I haven’t seen him throw a bad pass,” Iowa State linebacker Jake Knott said. “You can tell he’s older than everybody else out there.”