By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
The Oklahoma State offense will have a tall task in rebounding from last week’s mediocre performance against Kansas.
The Cowboys will face what coach Mike Gundy claims is the best linebacking corps OSU will face to date in Iowa State.
“They may have the best crew inside and play as well together as anybody that we have in our league. They’re experienced,” Gundy said. “Most of their guys are juniors and seniors and they’ve played a number of games. The experience and maturity is so important and they’ve got guys who’ve played a lot of games and it shows in the results.”
Oklahoma State (3-2) will host the Cyclones (4-2) in the Homecoming contest, which will kickoff at 11 a.m. Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium. The game will be televised on FX (Suddenlink channel 40 in Stillwater).
It’s easy to argue that Iowa State’s linebackers are some of the best in the conference. Led by senior linebackers Jake Knott and A.J. Klein — both of whom were named to the preseason All-Big 12 Football Team — Iowa State is allowing just 17.7 points per contest.
With Knott and Klein in the middle of the defense, they lead the Cyclones in tackles — Knott with 57 and Klein, last year’s Big 12 Defense Player of the Year, with 50. The duo also has three interceptions, seven tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks.
“They play sound, they understand gap control, they keep things in front of them, they limit the big plays ... and it’s almost as if they are saying, ‘You’re going to eventually mess something up,’” Gundy said. “They’ll pick their spots, fire the inside backers some, but for the most part they are going to play sound defense and not give up the big plays.”
So with that type of playmaking ability in the middle of the field, it is up to OSU offensive coordinator Todd Monken to find a way to neutralize that threat — whether its Wes Lunt or J.W. Walsh at quarterback.
“It’s hard to because they are athletic, very smart. Other than one of them getting banged up and they don’t play, I don’t know how we really can,” Monken said. “... Those guys are really good football players. So it’s hard to neutralize them. It’d be different if I didn’t think they were good space players — if you could try to spread them out. But I don’t see that.”
The Iowa State defense is also in the top half of the league in both rushing and passing defense. The Cyclones are holding opponents to 126 yards rushing and 216.3 yards passing in their six games.
“They are difficult to prepare for because they are good at what they do,” Monken said. “It’s not like they are going to line up and give you crazy looks. They line up, they’re well coached and their guys are smart football players. ... They are just good players that maximize their measurable skill set.”