Paul Rhoads’ Iowa State team goes against the grain of conventional Big 12 philosophies, relying on defense to ground the conference’s uptempo offenses. Linebacker Jake Knott has been central to that mission, and the Cyclones’ pursuit of a third bowl in the last four seasons, but those chances were dealt a major blow this weekend when Knott suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. Clones Confidential has more.
Knott was one-half of Iowa State’s intimidating linebacking duo with AJ Klein, and the core of a Cyclone defense allowing just 19.8 points per game. Most recently, ISU grounded Baylor to just 21 points for the Cyclones’ fifth win. One more has Iowa State bowling, but it faces a stretch of Texas, West Virginia and Oklahoma. Kansas is ISU’s best chance for a win, though the Cyclones travel to Lawrence to meet Charlie Weis’ one-win Jayhawks.
K-2 combined for 146 tackles to pace Iowa State’s No. 37 ranked rush defense, but Knott and Klein have also been vital defending the pass with three interceptions and 10 pass deflections between them. Knott’s style of ball pursuit will be missed when ISU hosts West Virginia in the Cyclones’ regular season finale, as his open field pursuits counter Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin’s ability to break off swing passes for big gains around the edges.
ISU is hardly DOA in its quest to return to the postseason; Kansas has not won a Big 12 Conference game since Nov. 6, 2010 when it beat Colorado. The Jayhawks last beat a current Big 12 member in 2009. Still, Baylor last year and Texas last week prove that winning in Lawrence isn’t a gimme. Lacking ones best player doesn’t help the cause.