Cyclone linebackers don't bring Oklahoma State fond memories
BY KELLY HINES World Sports Writer
Thursday, October 18, 2012
10/18/12 at 5:21 AM
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby talks Texas, league TV deal and more
OSU football notebook: Laying it on the line
STILLWATER - Oklahoma State is well aware of A.J. Klein and Jake Knott.
A year ago, the Iowa State duo played a significant role in wrecking the Cowboys' dream season, combining for 27 tackles and forcing two turnovers, including the second-overtime interception that led to the Cyclone victory.
As the teams meet again Saturday, the senior linebackers are back and better than ever.
"They may have the best crew inside and play as well together as anybody we have in our league," OSU coach Mike Gundy said. "Most of their guys are juniors or seniors.
"The experience and maturity is so important, and they've got guys that have played a lot of games. In the results, it shows."
Particularly Klein and Knott, who average nearly 18 tackles a game, could pose major problems for an OSU offense that is battling injuries at the skill positions.
"It's almost as if (the linebackers) say, 'You're eventually going to mess something up and we're going to keep everything in front of you,' " Gundy said. " ... They don't give you a lot of easy plays."
A full page in this week's Iowa State media notes is dedicated to its linebacker stars and advocates the pair's All-America candidacy. The statistics alone, including 619 combined career tackles, are stunning.
Klein, the reigning Big 12 co-defensive player of the year, is tied for the NCAA record for interception returns for touchdowns by a linebacker.
Knott, his first-team All-Big 12 partner in crime, has 325 career stops, ranking sixth in the NCAA among active players. He didn't miss a game last season despite a dislocated shoulder and a broken hand.
"They play hard," Cowboy offensive coordinator Todd Monken said of the Iowa State linebackers. "They tackle. I think their coaches do a great job.
"They did a great job against us last year. They do what they do, they keep it simple and they are really good at it."
Even if quarterback Wes Lunt returns after missing nearly three games with a knee injury, deep targets Tracy Moore and Isaiah Anderson might not be available after getting hurt against Kansas last week.
Relying on the run game and throwing shorter passes might allow the linebackers, whom Gundy called "deceivingly fast," to wreak havoc on the Cowboys.
"They're very good players and they play very hard," backup quarterback J.W. Walsh said. "They are always around the ball, so you have always got to be aware of them."
Under fourth-year head coach Paul Rhoads, defense has been the key to success. Iowa State is 19-1 when holding teams under 24 points and 3-21 when allowing 24 or more points.
This year's Cyclones are ranked 19th nationally in pass-efficiency defense and break up an average of five passes per game.
"Everybody hears about their linebackers being such good athletes and everything," OSU offensive lineman Parker Graham said. "But as far as their defense as a whole, I think they are going to be a very tough test for us for sure."
Vs. Iowa State
11 a.m. Saturday
Radio: KFAQ am1170
Original Print Headline: Cyclone LBs don't bring fond memories
Kelly Hines 918-581-8452