Cowboys Know What They're Up Against

STILLWATER – Mike Gundy understands what Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads is experiencing as a first-time head coach. Gundy is preparing to take his 18th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys to Ames, Iowa for Saturday's game against an Iowa State team that need just one more victory to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2005. It was too long ago that the Cowboys were in that same situation.

The Cowboys, 6-2 overall and 3-1 in Big 12 play, will make their first trip to Iowa State to face the Cyclones, 5-3 and 2-3, since 2005 when Gundy was a first-year head coach. OSU lost 37-10 on that trip to Ames and eventually finished the season with a 4-7 record.

Kickoff for Saturday's nationally televised game (ABC Sports) is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

Although the Cowboys were not bowl eligible in Gundy's first season they began building for the future with a late season 24-17 victory over then No. 13 Texas Tech. They were 6-6 each of the next two seasons, and capped both the 2006 and 2007 seasons with bowl victories over Alabama (in the Independence Bowl) and Indiana (Insight Bowl).

"A few years ago that was this program," Gundy said of the Cyclones attempting to get the sixth win and become bowl eligible. "There's no question they'll be ready to play. They're an improved football team. They're playing much better this year, and they've got guys who are making plays on both sides of the ball.

"I would think their approach would be very similar to ours; they're going to come out and play. What motivates teams I'm not sure. I just know to play the game for the right reason you've got to practice each day, and go play hard. No matter how many wins or losses you have, you've got to go compete each Saturday," Gundy continued.

Much was made during Gundy's first two a half years as head coach when the Cowboys struggled to win away from Boone Pickens Stadium, including losses to Houston (in 2006) and Troy (in 2007). OSU was 2-11 in true road games during that time.

But it has been a different story since Oklahoma State whipped Nebraska 45-14 in Lincoln, Neb., midway through the 2007 season. The Cowboys have won seven of their last 10 road games, with their only losses being to No. 10 Oklahoma (49-17) in 2007, and No. 1-ranked Texas (28-24) and second-ranked Texas Tech (56-20) last season.

"Maybe early in the career, too much was put into playing (and losing) on the road. It was talked about a lot … issues that ultimately may not be a factor as just go play the football game. That may have contributed to it. We may have set them up for that. Then as we matured, and had players that had been in our program, and our skill level got better through recruiting, it got better," said Gundy.

The Cowboys will make the trip to Ames as prohibitive favorites, and be looking for their third win in as many road trips this season. But Gundy says that his players had better be prepared because his team is not good enough to give anything less than a 100 percent against any team if faces.

"Each week it's a challenge for all of us," says Gundy. "I don't know if there are teams out there anymore that you say you necessarily should just beat with what's going on in college football. The only part that we can control as a staff, and as a football team, is to practice hard, and put in the work during the work, and then let the guys go play on Saturday and have some fun.

"Each week has been a challenge for us and we have to move forward."

One challenge the Cowboys will face is an Iowa State running attack that ranks first in the Big 12 and 18th nationally (averaging more than 200 yards per game). Iowa State's Austen Arnaud is a dual-threat quarterback (throwing for 1,246 yards and nine touchdowns while rushing for 434 yards and seven scores), while running back Alexander Robinson leads the Big 12 in rushing (101.6 yards per game).

But the run defense has been the strength of the OSU defense as opponents are only averaging 99.0 rushing yards per game (which is 13th best in the nation). In four Big 12 games the Cowboys have allowed only an average of 88.5 rushing yards).

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