Saturday, November 26, 2011

Cyclones Experience Growing Pains and Gains In Norman

As a lifelong Cyclone fan I was in uncharted territory this Saturday.  I really expected ISU to compete with Oklahoma in Norman.  Traditionally those two things just don't mix.  I had drank the Kool-Aid all week coming off the biggest win in school history.  The message boards were crazy this week and every article and sound byte I read or listened set me up for utter disappointment.  Sure, for every story about the Cyclones resurgence and for every Paul Rhoads YouTube clip there was someone there to bring me back to earth.  Hangover.  52-0.  Norman (which might as well be a four letter word to Cyclone fans).  Yet, I was confident this guy known as CPR would get the Cyclones breathing again in Norman (pun intended).  By the time 11 a.m. rolled around I was about as vulnerable as I have ever been.  This was setting up for disaster.

After watching the offense cough up the ball deep in their own territory I was starting to feel comfortable again as a Cyclone fan.  The defense then stuffed this potent offense and held them to a field goal.  After an Oklahoma botched snap and a quick ISU score the scoreboard reads ISU 7 Oklahoma 3 (Pending PAT).  Then came the missed extra point, ISU's go-to special teams play.  Yet the Cyclones are ahead of Oklahoma at the end of the first quarter.  Upset brewing.

The second quarter featured two more Cyclone turnovers and 20 unanswered Sooner points.  The defense was the only reason this was not a lot worse.  At halftime the score reads Oklahoma 23, ISU 6.  Blowout brewing?

The second half featured more of the same for both the Cyclones defense and the Cyclones offense.  The Cyclones defense played outstanding and the Cyclones offense sputtered.  Although the game never got close enough in the 2nd half to truly make the Sooners nervous they certainly couldn't have felt comfortable.  I came away incredibly impressed with this defense.  They played the game, not the scoreboard.  Over and over with their backs against the wall they came away with huge stops and turnovers.  Over the last four games (3-1) this defense is allowing 18.5 points per game.  These opponents typically average 37.8 points per game.  Wow, hats off to these guys.

Many people will come away discouraged from the offensive performance.  At the end of the day this group was featuring at some points 8 or 9 underclassmen including a red-shirt freshmen quarterback.  This offense was just beat by a defense belonging to the #9 team in the nation.  A defense featuring strength, speed and agility that made them blue chip recruits.  A defense that held a senior led Cyclone offense scoreless last season.  Growing pains.

Most of the players on this Cyclone roster were overlooked by the Oklahoma's and Texas' of the world.  Many of them were overlooked by BCS schools in general.  Yet, they continue to play, continue to improve and continue to show they will stand toe-to-toe with the big boys.  A 20 point loss can never be considered a "good loss" and in college football there is no such thing as a moral victory.  Everyone in that locker room expected to win and was extremely disappointed to walk out with a loss.  They will walk into the Little Apple next week against this weeks 11th ranked team in the BCS standings once again expecting to win.  So will a majority of the Cyclone fan base.  After the game there may be another YouTube celebration.  There may not be.  At the end of the day, these Cyclones will still be making their second bowl trip in three years.  Only a failed fake extra point attempt in overtime against Nebraska has prevented this from being a third consecutive trip.

ISU will likely start the game next week as double digit underdogs.  As Jeff Woody would put it "We've been favored two times in eleven games.  We have six wins.  You do the math".  I also think I can steal Paul Rhoads' famous line and speak for all of Cyclone Nation in saying "We are so PROUD!".

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