DALLAS — Jake Knott is one part of Iowa State's dynamic duo at linebacker, as he and A.J. Klein are the Big 12's top returning tacklers. That was evident when the pair combined for 27 tackles in the Cyclones' upset victory over Oklahoma State last November.
Knott talked to The Oklahoman about that magical night in Ames, playing with Klein and his new offseason hobby.
Q: What did that victory against OSU do for the Iowa State program?
A: “After that game, I think it really settled in with some people on our team that we can play with anybody. A lot of people believed that beforehand, but now you see the proof of it, that's really going to go a long way in allowing us to be able to win those types of games, have a lot more confidence in those types of games. Now, when we're (supposed) to lose by 27, 28 points, it's not going to affect anybody. We're just going to go out there and play.”
What moment do you remember most about that game?
“I tipped a ball at the very end of the game, and that kind of sticks out. I look back, and I see the ball in the lights, and it was, like, almost (a) slow motion kind of a thing. I just got lucky and hit it up in the air. That's probably going to be the one thing that really stuck out.”
How would you describe your coach, Paul Rhoads?
“Very, very passionate. He's definitely a player's coach, and he's going to get the best out of every single player that goes through there. He spends a lot of 1-on-1 time with players and me in film — just stuff that normal head coaches don't necessarily do. He's a very good teacher as well as a coach. He knows so much more than people will realize about the game and about how to teach you. He does so many things behind the scenes for his players to make sure they're comfortable or happy or stuff like that, which is really good.”
What's your relationship like with Klein?
“On the field, we really kind of play off each other, just because we've been around each other so much. We've seen, ‘OK, he's fitting it like that,' on a run play or, ‘He's going to be covering that guy a little closer, so I can back off.' Those little things that you don't get if you haven't played with somebody for a while. Off the field, we hang out. We go do stuff together. We play golf together all the time — I picked up that hobby this summer. Just a bunch of little things like that, I think, really go to pay off in the offseason and then help you throughout the whole season.”
Why'd you pick up golf?
“Just a new challenge, I guess. Golf, every shot is a challenge. It's fun to go out there (where) it's just you and the open, just being outside and relaxed. It's something not so strenuous to do that's not going to affect your training or anything like that. You can do it outside and have a good time.”
What's it like going up against explosive Big 12 offenses week after week?
“Every team does something different. You go from a team like Oklahoma, who plays pretty much anything — they can run it in the I formation or they can throw it from the spread, all that — to a team that's just strictly pass and they do different variations. It's a lot of different things you have to be ready for. You need a very dynamic defense to be able to offset all the differences in the way they play.”
Iowa State was picked to finish eighth in the Big 12. Is that too low?
“Oh, yeah. But any team that's ranked low is going to tell you that. But I really believe we have people and we have the pieces in place to win a lot more games than people think we can. I think we're not just going to sneak into a bowl game, but win a little bit more than that and hopefully, start to get a lot more respect around the nation, not just the league.”
What does this team need to do to take the next step and become a contender in the Big 12, rather than just a team that pulls off a big upset every season?
“We have to be consistent. We can't beat Oklahoma State and lose three games in a row. That's the type of thing if we want respect nationwide, we can't lose, especially after we had started to get more respect. We've got to continue winning, and that's the only way that we're going to get respect. That's the only way that it's ever earned is if you start winning, and you win a lot. That's the way you've got to do it.”