Just when everything seemed to be headed down the drain for Iowa State, Texas helped turned it around.
Iowa State had just parted ways with offensive coordinator Mark Mangino. It didn’t seem like Paul Rhoads’ seat could get any hotter. Long-time starting quarterback Sam B. Richardson was in the middle of one of the worst stretches of his career.
So Rhoads turned to freshman quarterback Joel Lanning, and in the first start of his career, Lanning led Iowa State to its first home victory against Texas in school history.
“We just came close as a team, especially offensively,” Iowa State receiver Allen Lazard said to reporters after the 24-0 win Saturday. “We just all bought in together and we just understood what happened though and we just stuck together and had a good game.”
Iowa State (3-5, 2-3 Big 12 Conference) had lost five of its last six games before Texas, and Lanning had thrown just 29 passes in his career. But his start has given the Cyclones new life – even if the numbers weren’t all that great (51.4 completion percentage, 252 total yards).
“We’ve always believed, and I still believe that we have a good football team,” Rhoads said Saturday. “. . .We’ve been playing really good football teams. We’ve improved in the process.”
The Cyclones, who will also lean on running back Mike Warren as he nears the 1,000-yard mark, have already faced TCU and Baylor this season. They played Iowa, the unbeaten surprise of the nation, in the non-conference and got MAC power Toledo, too.
But now comes the Oklahoma Sooners – a team that has had more success against the Cyclones than any other Big 12 opponent. The 14th-ranked Sooners haven’t lost to Iowa State since 1990. That’s the longest streak against any Big 12 team.
In fact, Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1) has lost to Iowa State only once since 1961. The Cyclones just feel a bit different than they were two weeks ago, even if they’re not.
“Our football team has fought, prepared and done the things that we’ve asked them,” Rhoads said.” They haven’t performed at a high enough level to gain some victories over some folks like that. (Saturday) they did, from start to finish and in all three phases. . . . People questioned whether we could do that or not. Our confidence level will be up another notch with this for that we get to take on an undefeated and one loss team the next two weeks in a row that are in the top 15.
“. . . Our guys will be eager and excited about that challenge but we know the work that will be ahead to continue on towards the path to victory.”