Turning the Tide?

Wesley Hitt

5-69-2. Can Iowa State turn the tide around on decades of struggles against Oklahoma?

You saw it in a piece from CyForPresident earlier in the week. Not like you needed to. We all know how bad this series has been for the home team. I would bet there are very few regular WRNL readers that actually remember our last victory over OU. In 1990 I was far too busy playing with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on Saturdays to be worried about football. I would wager that the last time ISU beat OU in Ames Rock City, there wasn't a single WRNL reader that was actually born. Shit, I was so far from existence that my old man was still in diapers in 1960. Since the beginning of the Big 8, Oklahoma has pummeled into Iowa State like a relentless, automatic, tide.

But someday, that tide has to turn.

I still remember walking out of Jack Trice Stadium on October 20th, 2007 with a strange feeling. If you remember, a 1-7 ISU squad had just gone toe-to-toe with the #4 Sooners, just one week after a 56-3 thrashing at the hands of Texas. The final score was 17-7, but the game was closer than that. ISU had taken a 7-0 lead into the locker room at half time, and had pissed away 3 red zone possessions on a Culbertson chip shot that went wide right (I realize how unlikely that sounds), a 4th and 1 that came up short, and an interception of a tipped Bret Meyer throw (that should have been caught) in the end zone.

I walked out of Jack Trice thinking that the tide had turned.

In the McCarney era, teams like #4 Oklahoma came into Jack Trice and kicked even the good Cyclone squads up and down the field. Bloodbath after bloodbath had unfolded that way, with Danny Mac pacing the sidelines, clapping, and saying things like "we won the 4th quarter".

But not that day. No, Gene Chizik's Cyclones (God, it pains me to write that) didn't care that they were nowhere close to that Sooner team in terms of talent. They didn't care that they just had their ass handed to them by Texas the week before. They just went out and played their dicks off. They hit hard. They played with pride. They played knowing they could win. That team would go on to close the season with a 2 game win streak in Jack Trice, before a 2008 collapse that lead to the Exodus of Gene Chizik and the ascension of Paul Rhoads.

Flash forward to November 26, 2011. The Cyclones have just beaten #2 Oklahoma State in a game that has been written about a million times, and that we will all never forget. 5-68-2. That was the number facing them in Norman. With the biggest victory in school history, and bowl eligibility in hand, it seemed the prime situation for a complete let-down for Rhoads and the Cyclones. There was something a little different this day, though.

While the offense slept-walked through a pathetic performance that showcased Jared Barnett's struggles in throwing the football, and featured an extremely out-of-character lack of ball security on James White's part, ISU's defense forced three OU turnovers, and harassed the Sooner offense all day. The game ended 26-6, but just like in 2007, it was closer than it appeared. While the offense provided OU with ample opportunity for a blow out win, that didn't happen. These guys were here to play, and you could see that the all-time record, and the gap between these programs didn't mean a damn thing.

Which brings us to Saturday. OU comes to Jack Trice on the heels of a crushing 30-10 loss to Notre Dame which essentially ends whatever hopes they had of a Big 12 title or National Championship appearance. The Cyclones are riding high on the back of a rejuvenated Steele Jantz who just turned in one of the best quarterbacking performances in school history, tying records for completions (36) and touchdowns (5) in one game. The defense held the Baylor offense, #3 in the nation heading into that game, to 21 points, and one of those TDs was essentially in "garbage" time. Just like last year, we have a highly ranked squad from Oklahoma coming into Jack Trice as we play to secure bowl eligibility. Just like last year, its going to be a full house.

5 years ago, OU paid their last visit to Ames. They took on a poor Cyclone squad that was playing with nothing to lose. A Cyclone squad that nearly won against a team with exponentially more talent. On Saturday, we're going to see a completely different program. The talent gap has narrowed. This squad knows how to win big games. Once again, this team will play with nothing to lose.

Nothing, except that Gorilla on their back wearing a "5-69-2" shirt.

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