Cyclones face `must-win’ in Kansas

Jeremy Gustafson

After starting 5-1, it’s hard for the Cyclones to believe it.

Hard to believe that it has come down to this.

“We’ve got the two biggest games left in our season,” ISU head coach Dan McCarney said. “We can still have a fine finish to our season, but this is going to be a very, very important game for us coming up this week.”

Important because the chance of a winning season hinges on a victory in either of the two games against Kansas this week and Iowa on Nov. 24.

That’s because three straight losses have put the Cyclones’ season in a downward spiral and on the brink of losing bowl eligibility.

It started with a 24-21 loss at Texas A&M. The Cyclones outplayed the Aggies, outgaining them 445 total yards to 322. But it was Tony Yelk’s four missed field goals that proved costly.

The Cyclones returned home to play struggling Kansas State, but it was the Cyclones who struggled in a 42-3 loss.

Then there was Saturday, when the Colorado Buffaloes ran all over Iowa State for 502 total yards and a 40-27 win.

“It’s a two-game season,” ISU running back Ennis Haywood said. “We can still reach a lot of our goals if we win these next two games. If we do the things we are capable of doing, we could come back and win these next two games.”

The things that Iowa State has been capable of doing have been drastically different. Most notably for Haywood.

In the first six games of the season Haywood ran for 129 yards per game, tops in the Big 12. Since then, it has been a very different story.

Haywood ran for 69 yards against the Aggies, only six against Kansas State and 64 versus Colorado. His average yards per game has dropped by 28, to 101.4 per contest.

“After three losses, I’m real frustrated right now,” said Haywood, who dropped from first to third in the Big 12 in rushing yards per game. “It’s over now. All we can do is get back and practice and focus and get ready for Kansas.”

Frustrated too is the Cyclone defense, which has seen teams run all over it for two weeks.

Kansas State ran the ball 75 times racking up 343 yards on the ground. Running back Josh Scobey accounted for 172 of those. The result was time of possession, and the game, being totally dominated by the Wildcats.

Colorado ran 57 times for 255 yards as Cyclones missed tackles and allowed big plays.

“We gave up some big runs, and we need to get back to the way we were playing at the beginning of the season,” ISU linebacker Justin Eilers said.

Eilers and the defense have had a turn similar to that of Haywood’s – for the worse.

After starting the year with shutouts in two of three games, Iowa State has been manhandled.

Through six games, the Cyclone defense was giving up 340.5 total yards of offense a game. That included holding Baylor to just 13 rushing yards on Sept. 29.

In the three games since, Iowa State is giving up 418.3 yards of total offense, including 502 to Colorado and 431 to Kansas State.

“We’re not down; we’re not out,” Eilers said. “It’s going to take a lot of determination and focus but we’re going to come back.”

Maybe the Cyclones aren’t down or out, but certainly they have their backs against a wall. The future of the season lies in Lawrence; a win and things are back on track.

A loss and the season might well be over with Iowa, fresh off a 59-16 win at Northwestern, coming to town.

“There is nothing more important than winning this game at Kansas . going down there and getting our winning season,” McCarney said.

For Iowa State, it may be easier said than done.