'Tired' Cyclones Defense Isn't On 'E' Yet

By Rob Gray, Reporter

Texas running back Johnathan Gray scores a touchdown against Iowa State during the fourth quarter of an NCAA football game, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, in Austin Texas. (AP Photo/The Daily Texan, Marisa Vasquez)

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By Grant Burkhardt

AMES, Iowa – Forgive Iowa State’s defense for feeling a bit weary these days.

After all, the Cyclones’ offense has held the ball more than the opposition precisely once in Big 12 Conference play.

And ISU’s standard-bearer, linebacker Jake Knott, is out for the season with a shoulder injury, while starting cornerback Jansen Watson remains “day-by-day” with an MCL strain.

Being short-handed leads to shortness of breath — an enervating situation the Cyclones (5-5, 2-5) hope to improve in Saturday’s 6 p.m. game at Kansas.

“We know we’re going to be on the field a little bit more just due to the fact that right now the (offense’s) scoring average isn’t where we want it to be,” ISU nickelback Deon Broomfield said. “So we’ve kind of got our backs against the wall. We’re going to try to play as best as we can.”

So it goes.

One long, energy-sapping drive at a time.

The Cyclones are mired at 94th nationally in points scored per game at 22.7.

They rank ninth in the 10-team Big 12 in time of possession in conference games — with just five seconds more each Saturday more than Baylor.

The Bears, however, average 42.7 points per game, which rates seventh-best nationally.

“We’re tired,” ISU coach Paul Rhoads said. “We were tired Saturday (in a 33-7 loss at Texas). Hopefully we’ll push through that, It happens, as always, at some point in the season. We’re cutting back on practice a little bit this week to try to help their legs out as we make it into the final push of these last two (regular season) games.”

Points on the board contribute to much better fuel mileage and the Cyclones have scored 21 or fewer points in five of seven conference games.

Kansas (1-9, 0-7) scored more than 17 points in a Big 12 game for the first time this season in Saturday’s 41-34 double overtime loss at Texas Tech.

“It’s the Big 12,” ISU running back Jeff Woody said. “You don’t have a pushover.”

Tired or not, the Cyclones retain two of their preseason goals.

One: Get to a third bowl game in four seasons.

Two: Win four conference games for the first time under Rhoads.

“When you’re on the field as much as we were, playing against physical teams like Oklahoma and Texas, it takes a toll on you,” Broomfield said. “Third and fourth quarter, you’re on a 12-play series, it starts kicking in a little bit. You’ve just got to keep fighting through it and try to stop them. Hold your ground the best you can.”

INJURY UPDATE: Rhoads said this week he’s given up on trying to figure out when big-play wide receiver Josh Lenz can play again. Lenz injured a quadriceps muscle in practice before the Oklahoma State loss. He’s played sparingly in one game since. “I don’t know,” Rhoads said. “He’ll play when he plays.” Lenz leads ISU in yards per reception (16.0). He also has the two longest catches for his team this season — 51- and 74-yard touchdowns against TCU. “They’re throwing everything but chicken bones at him to try to get him well,” Rhoads said.

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