AMES (MCT) — Man-on-man. Strength-against-strength.
Iowa State linebacker Jake Knott loves a good, physical battle in the trenches.
Knott doesn’t get those often in the Big 12 Conference, where offenses more often try to create mismatches in open space rather than ground and pound.
But Knott and the Cyclones (4-1, 1-1) are going to get that war Saturday when ISU hosts No. 6 Kansas State (5-0, 2-0) at Jack Trice Stadium.
The Wildcats, led by 6-foot-5, 226-pound quarterback Collin Klein, like nothing better than running over opponents. KSU ranks ninth in the BCS in rushing per game (262.8).
“We kind of like the guys who come right at us,” Knott said.
Junior running back John Hubert, who has four 100-yard rushing games this season and ranks second in the Big 12 in rushing yards per game (105.4), is a concern for ISU, but it is Klein who has the Cyclones’ attention.
The senior has 1,970 career rushing yards and 40 career rushing touchdowns, and that ability to run has helped him lead the Wildcats to a 16-4 record in games he’s started, including a 10-3 mark in the Big 12.
“He is very patient,” ISU linebacker Deon Broomfield said. “He lets his blocks set up and when you are that patient ... he lets the play develop to the whole extent and that is pretty hard to defend.”
Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads says Klein’s patience can lead a defense into a false hope that he can be stopped.
“You sit there and watch and see how long it takes a play to develop and whether it is on TV or game film, it’s like, ‘Is somebody going to show up and make a tackle here for a 2-yard gain’ and they just don’t. They don’t show up,” Rhoads exclaimed. “He waits. He has great vision. He lets it expose itself and then he gets it.
“In running an offense that way, they put themselves in so many manageable down-and-distance situations where you get on your heels as a defensive football team because it feels like you can’t get off the field and stop them. Klein is the reason for that.”
A year ago, Klein and Hubert combined for 206 yards and two touchdown, including Hubert’s go-ahead, 26-yard touchdown run with 3 minutes, 29 seconds left in the fourth quarter to help the Wildcats beat the Cyclones, 30-23, in Manhattan, Kan.
ISU feels it has the personnel to contain both Klein and Hubert, especially up front where defensive tackle Jake McDonough has led a resurgent group. The Cyclones come into the game ranked 30th in the BCS in rush defense (115.8).
The defensive line, too, is looking forward to the challenge.
“It is football and you have to love it,” defensive end Willie Scott said of KSU’s physical brand of play. “We have to get people to the ball ... like we say in our program — swarm and punish. We have to swarm and punish on every play.”
Another concern the Cyclones have is a more wide-open Wildcats passing attack. Through five games, Klein has 18 passes for 20 or more yards after throwing just 26 20-yard plus passes in 2012 over 13 games.
“You have to have your eyes in the right places at all times,” Broomfield said. “They are going to run it and run it and if they catch you sleeping, that is when they hit you with the big strike.
“We’ve just got to be on our Ps and Qs at all times.”
BOWL PROJECTION FUN – Iowa State is still two wins away from becoming bowl-eligible, but ESPN college football experts Brad Edwards and Mark Schlabach believe the Cyclones will get to bowl eligibility.
In this week’s ESPN bowl projections, Edwards has ISU playing UCLA in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec. 29 in San Francisco, while Schlabach has the Cyclones playing Maryland in the Dec. 27 Military Bowl in Washington, D.C.