Iowa State enters brutal stretch vs TCU, Baylor
If that sounds familiar to Cyclones fans, it should.
The Cyclones (2-3, 1-1 Big 12) beat lowly Kansas to start league play and then allowed Texas Tech to pile up a school-record 776 yards in a 66-31 win last weekend. It was a bad way to get ready for the two top teams in the Big 12: Iowa State hosts No. 3 TCU (6-0, 3-0) on Saturday before a road trip to No. 2 Baylor (5-0, 2-0).
It will take arguably the biggest win in school history just to earn a split over the next two weeks - and Iowa State would still be below .500 with five games to go.
''We didn't need a wakeup call. But there's a realization of what's ahead,'' Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. ''If we don't adjust to it, we'll see more outcomes like we did'' last week.
What was most troubling for the Cyclones was how their supposedly improved defense performed against Texas Tech.
Iowa State allowed just seven points against Northern Iowa in the opener and was solid in losses to Iowa and Toledo, both of whom are now ranked. Kansas managed just one offensive touchdown.
The Red Raiders, however, threw for 515 yards and six TDs without an interception. They also ran for 261 yards - on 8.4 yards per carry - and three more scores. They converted all but four of their 15 third downs. And Texas Tech has already lost to TCU and Baylor.
''We've got to play faster,'' Rhoads said. ''We got a little intimidated early in that game Saturday with the speed of it ... I'm talking about the speed of the actual plays, and then early success of theirs created a little fear in our guys.''
On offense, there's been some rumbling from fans hoping the Cyclones will soon turn to sophomore backup quarterback Joel Lanning. Sam Richardson had three picks against the Red Raiders, and he continues to throw passes Iowa State would rather not see come out of a senior's hands.
Richardson will start against the Horned Frogs. But Lanning has been slowly getting more and more playing time as the season has gone along - and Richardson's hold on the job might not last long if he keeps turning the ball over.
''He didn't throw it with the accuracy we're accustomed to. He's got to get back to doing that,'' Rhoads said of Richardson.
Iowa State's current predicament is also set against the backdrop of what happened last season.
Numerous players during fall camp alluded to the fact that the 2014 team adopted a losing mentality and culture as the losses piled up. Iowa State lost its last nine games and finished a dreadful 2-10.
Rhoads said he's not concerned about that happening again. He just hopes the Cyclones can simply start fast enough to build the confidence needed to pull off a monumental upset - or two.
''There's no give up in this football team. There's a lot of fight in this football team,'' Rhoads said.
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