No. 2 Oklahoma State still has much to play for

BY foxsports • November 19, 2011

No. 2 Oklahoma State will have to get over its crushing double-overtime loss at Iowa State in a hurry.

The Cowboys still have a lot left to play for.

Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1) will finish this weekend atop the Big 12, and a home win over the rival Sooners on Dec. 3 will give the Cowboys their first Big 12 title and the league's automatic BCS berth.

The sting of losing out on a potential spot in the national title game will linger for the Cowboys. But Oklahoma State remains in prime position for its first conference crown since it split a three-way tie atop the old Big Eight in 1976.

''It's sad,'' star wide receiver Justin Blackmon said. ''But just like with all the wins, you've got to put it in the past and go on to the next one. We've still got games to play, games we need to win.''

The Cowboys are going to need an inspired effort from their oft-maligned defense if they want to close the season on a high note.

Those who had doubts about Oklahoma State on that side of the ball were given more ammunition after its performance in Ames on Friday night.

Iowa State, which mustered just 13 points in a narrow home win over Kansas two weeks ago, amassed 568 yards of offense in a 37-31 victory. Freshman quarterback Jared Barnett, who had just one TD pass entering play, threw for three touchdowns and finished 31-of-58 passing for 376 yards.

The Cyclones (6-4, 3-4) also ran for 192 yards - while holding Oklahoma State to just 60 - and picked up a staggering 33 first downs.

Iowa State's last drive was the one that might have hurt the worst. The Cyclones went right at the heart of Oklahoma State's defense, and physical backup Jeff Woody needed just three carries up the middle to score the winning touchdown.

Woody ran for 6, 15 and 4 yards on that final drive.

''We were in a blitz to supposedly stop that run,'' Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Bill Young said. ''We knew they were going to try to just set up a field goal, so we were bringing an all-out blitz trying to stop a play similar to that and obviously we didn't get it done.''

Iowa State became bowl eligible with the victory. It could be a minor one considering the Cyclones still have games left at Oklahoma and Kansas State.

In reality, this one meant so much more for third-year coach Paul Rhoads and the Cyclones.

Iowa State was 0-56-2 against teams ranked sixth or higher in the poll before stunning the Cowboys. It pulled off an upset on national television that shook up the BCS title chase and put the program on the national map - for at least a night, anyway.

Rhoads has made a name for himself locally by recording surprising wins against Nebraska in 2009, at Texas last season and over rival Iowa in triple-overtime in September.

Those were nothing compared to this one, Iowa State's third straight win after an 0-4 slide that started with an ugly 37-14 loss to Texas at home.

''People try to rank them and try to place them here and place them there and put them on a pedestal. We needed six wins to get to a bowl game and this was No. 6, they were all fantastic,'' Rhoads said. ''This was another historic victory for Iowa State. We had the stage set earlier in the year with Texas with a 3-0 record and a fantastic crowd. ... I was glad we were able to give back tonight.''

The Cowboys will return to somber Stillwater and a university still mourning the loss of women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and three others in Thursday's plane crash.

Then it's on to Bedlam for a matchup that won't have quite the buzz it could have had if Oklahoma State was unbeaten.

Still, the Cowboys have a chance to complete one of the best seasons in school history - but only if they can put their loss in Ames behind them.

''For the first time this season, our team will be faced with some adversity, and I've asked them to handle that the right way,'' Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. ''It hurts, it certainly hurts to lose in a game like that, and they're quality people and they understand what it takes to do the right thing. So I expect them to handle this the right way.''

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