Sooners eager to play after week off
Friday, October 3rd 2003, 12:00 am
News On 6
AMES, Iowa (AP) _ Of all the impressive numbers top-ranked Oklahoma will bring to Iowa State on Saturday night, one set in particular might be the most foreboding of all for the Cyclones.
That would be 13-1, Oklahoma's record under coach Bob Stoops after being off the week before. The Sooners (4-0) will be playing for the first time since their 59-24 dismantling of UCLA on Sept. 20.
``I know our guys are anxious to play again, anxious to get on with the Big 12 season,'' Stoops said. ``I really like the attitude of our team. The week off helped us. I feel like it re-energized us.''
Stoops and the Sooners also insist they're focused solely on Iowa State (2-2), not on next week's annual grudge match with Texas. He knows that one slip-up is all it takes to cost a team a shot at the national championship.
``Our guys understand where they're going Saturday,'' Stoops said. ``We want to do well. They understand the only way to do that is to zero in and focus. There's plenty of time to get ready for the other, whenever it comes.''
Just what Iowa State needs to hear.
The Cyclones found out last year what can happen when Oklahoma is focused and energized. Iowa State went into the 2002 game at Norman ranked ninth nationally and with quarterback Seneca Wallace a leading contender in the Heisman Trophy race, only to get smacked with a cold dose of reality.
Oklahoma scored four plays into the game on a blocked punt, harassed Wallace into the worst performance of his career and won 49-3.
``It just seemed like when we got down, everything kept snowballing on us a little,'' said Austin Flynn, a redshirt freshman who is now Iowa State's quarterback.
``I just hope that if something happens, if something goes wrong, instead of letting it snowball we can turn it around and get the momentum on the other side.''
Iowa State has lost two straight but found encouragement in both losses. The Cyclones held No. 23 Iowa to 243 yards but were done in by kicking game mistakes in a 40-21 loss. Last week, they led No. 17 Northern Illinois in the fourth quarter before losing 24-16.
``They've got a lot of players back this year, especially on defense, and they're real talented,'' OU quarterback Jason White said. ``They're great tacklers and they're all good athletes.''
Iowa State won't be quite the same on defense if Jordan Carstens can't play. The senior tackle is questionable after twisting his left knee at Northern Illinois.
White has been Mr. Consistency so far in Oklahoma's offense. Showing no hangover from two serious knee injuries, White is eighth nationally in passing efficiency. He has completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,088 yards and 11 touchdowns with just three interceptions.
``You can imagine how he inspires his teammates overcoming two major injuries to go out there and play like he has,'' Iowa State coach Dan McCarney said.
``We're really going to have to do all we can to try to disrupt him. Because with time back there, he'll eat you alive. With the receivers they have, they'll make you look silly.''
Wide receivers Brandon Jones, Mark Clayton and Jejuan Rankins have combined for 53 catches and seven touchdowns.
Iowa State cornerback Ellis Hobbs relishes the challenge of playing them _ and the rest of the Sooners, too.
``It's a chance to tell the world we're not down and out,'' Hobbs said. ``We've got two losses, but there's lots of teams with two losses.
``We're just trying to go out there and prove to the world that we're not anybody just to slap around. We're out here to gain some respect.''