AMES, Iowa — After a dominant first quarter, the Cowboys defense turned leaky for a while in defending Iowa State's run game.
Twice in the second quarter, the Cyclones rode the option to touchdowns, cutting OSU's lead to 28-20 at the half.
“We had to make some adjustments at halftime,” said Cowboys defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer. “They ran the option more today than they ever have, and out of a couple different formations.
“We had to tweak a couple things and make us more sound to take that away. We stayed a step ahead the second half.”
Way ahead, with the Cyclones managing just 37 rushing yards and only 99 total yards over the final two quarters.
“Having an older defense, it gives us a great leg up on being able to make changes,” said linebacker Caleb Lavey, who finished with 10 tackles. “We've got guys who were able to tell coach Spencer what was going on. And it allowed coach Spencer to make some key adjustments.
“It was tough in the second quarter, but we ended up being able to adjust to it.”
COWBOYS REMEMBER 2011
The last time OSU played in Ames, the Cyclones stunned the Cowboys 37-31 in double overtime, knocking OSU from the No. 2 national ranking. That loss effectively kept the Cowboys out of the national title game.
At their Ankeny, Iowa, hotel on Friday night, the Cowboy defense was reminded of that game. After the regular scouting video concluded, Spencer had clips of Iowa State's 2011 overtime success shown.
“We went out there with a taste in our mouth,” said OSU cornerback Justin Gilbert. “Everybody pretty much had it in the front of their minds when we came out. Ready to play.”
CHOO CHOO GETS ROLLING
Among OSU's dueling duo of quarterbacks, J.W. Walsh is generally considered the superior runner, with Clint Chelf regarded as the better passer.
Chelf, however, showed off his running abilities Saturday, going for 85 yards on nine carries. Nicknamed “Choo Choo,” Chelf chugged for two 32-yard romps on option keepers.
For the day, Chelf ran for more yards than he passed for, finishing with 78 yards through the air.
“It's always fun watching him run the ball,” said receiver Charlie Moore. “You don't ever know what's going to happen. Is he going to do his little slow spin move?
“But he's a competitor. He likes to get out there and make plays with his feet as well as his arm.”
O-LINE REGAINS SOME SWAGGER
It hasn't been easy for OSU's big boys on offense, with a stagnant running game drawing much criticism toward the offensive line.
Saturday, they staged a breakout, clearing the way for a season-high, 342-yard rushing performance. Desmond Roland ran for a career-best 219 yards and four touchdowns. And with Chelf doing his thing, the running game was in gear like old times.
“These last few games, it's been frustrating for the offensive line in not doing as well as we wanted to,” said guard Parker Graham. “This week, I definitely think we stepped it up and showed what we could do on the ground.”
OSU's line has dealt with injury and illness, forcing a variety of combinations up front. And it continued this week, with sickness affecting players and practices.
“As offensive linemen, we're not the type to use excuses and stuff,” Graham said. “At the end of the day you just have to go out and play.”
Said Gundy: “Without watching the tape, I would say that our offensive linemen played good. Earlier in games this year, for the most part we were average or below average up front, at best.
“They moved the defensive line, which allowed the running backs to make cuts on the other side of the line instead of in our own backfield.”
MOMENTUM STARTED WITH COIN TOSS
With a north wind blowing and gusting, Gundy said he considered the coin toss as critical in getting off to a fast start on the road.
“We had talked considerably in the locker room about taking the wind,” Gundy said. “You definitely want to win the coin toss, because then you get to defer and get the ball in the second half, and you also get to start the game with the wind.”
The Cowboys won the toss and played to their script. They started drives at their own 42, 43 and 41 and at the ISU 43 following short punts, leading to a 28-7 lead moments into the second quarter.
“It was a difficult wind today,” Gundy said. “We needed to win that coin toss. So that was a good break for us, especially on the road.”
GILBERT BEATEN, NOT BURNED
Iowa State's Quenton Bundrage caught two touchdown passes, of 22 and 20 yards, with Gilbert defending. But don't blame Gilbert. He had excellent coverage. Bundrage just made two excellent catches.
“I told him on the sideline, that wasn't the issue,” said Spencer. “The issue was what got 'em to that point (in OSU territory).”
Besides, Gilbert drew first blood, stepping in front of Bundrage for a first-quarter interception return of 31 yards for a touchdown,
“That's going to happen, when you leave a guy one-on-one,” Spencer said of the touchdowns. “He got his share.”
COWBOYS NOW BOWL ELIGIBLE
Improving to 6-1 overall, OSU became bowl eligible Saturday.
And while that's hardly at the top of their goal list, in today's parity-ruled Big 12, it's nothing to dismiss.
“There's a lot we take for granted now,” Gundy said. “We've come a long way. People don't talk about winning six and guaranteeing you're going to a bowl. I didn't hear it all week. I didn't hear it in the locker room.
“But it's always good to be bowl eligible.”
* Running back Desmond Roland and offensive lineman Brandon Garrett made their first career starts at ISU. Nine Cowboys have now made their career debuts this season.
* OSU has scored 20 or more points in 46 consecutive games dating back to the 2010 season.
* Defensive tackle James Castleman blocked a PAT in the second quarter – his and OSU's second blocked kick of the season. Castleman blocked a field goal at West Virginia.
* The Cowboy captains Saturday: Chelf, Castleman, Joe Mitchell and Josh Stewart.