Ames, Iowa Since the inception of the Big 12 in 1996, Kansas University’s football team is a combined 2-20 against the University of Texas and Nebraska.
What’s more, the Jayhawks haven’t beaten either program since 2007.
Meanwhile, this week’s opponent, Iowa State — the Jayhawks will face ISU at 1 p.m. today at Jack Trice Stadium — has knocked off one of the conference powerhouses in back-to-back seasons.
After shocking Big 12 North champion Nebraska late in the season a year ago, the Cyclones did the same thing last Saturday in Austin, Texas, knocking off the Longhorns for the first time in school history.
Asked earlier this week to compare the two marquee wins and what they’ve meant for the program, second-year ISU coach Paul Rhoads was at a loss for words.
“Different points in the season, different impacts on the program, both certainly historic,” Rhoads said.
Perhaps the best indication of just how big Iowa State’s 28-21 upset of No. 22 Texas was came after the game, when Rhoads received 125 text messages in a short time and even better news in other ways.
“Recruits were calling us after the game,” he said. “So I think it has a major impact on recruiting. We were sitting on the bus, and coaches were getting one call after another from kids wanting to call and congratulate us.”
Before the season began, Rhoads talked emphatically about how this year’s team could be better than the 7-6 version which he led to a bowl in his first year in Ames, Iowa, in 2009 but might not be known as such because of the nature of the schedule.
Like Kansas during the past two seasons, ISU has had to endure a schedule with Big 12 South powers Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech on it, along with matchups with nonconference powerhouses Iowa and Utah.
“To be at 4-4, to have the resilience that our kids have shown at this point and to come away from Austin, Texas, this past Saturday with win No. 4 and victory No. 2 in the Big 12, we’re very pleased,” Rhoads said. “We’re excited to be headed into the last third of the season, especially since we’re playing three of those four games at home.”
Want to know just how tough Iowa State’s schedule has been? Seven of the Cyclones’ 2010 opponents were ranked in the Top 22 of the first BCS rankings. What’s more, the combined record of Iowa State’s first eight opponents is 41-16, all eight have winning records, and three already are bowl-eligible.
On the field, the Cyclones have been led by a pack of seniors who have looked more determined than ever. Quarterback Austen Arnaud (1,196 yards and 10 TDs) is a three-year starter, and KU coach Turner Gill called tailback Alexander Robinson (632 yards and 7 TDs) “one of the better (running backs) in our conference.” Together, they give ISU a dangerous 1-2 punch on offense behind a mammoth offensive line.
Defensively, the Cyclones feature two former Big 12 defensive players of the week in linebacker Jake Knott and reigning award-winner Jacob Lattimer, a defensive end.
Whether it’s because of their signature victories or the guys on the field, the Cyclones certainly have the attention of the Jayhawks.
“They are a good, hard-nosed team, and they play hard throughout the game,” said KU senior Johnathan Wilson, drawing on his memories of last year’s 41-36 victory in Lawrence. “I just remembered they wouldn’t go away. We scored, and that put us up by two touchdowns, and then they would come right back and score. They never gave up. I also watched them in the Insight Bowl last year, and they looked really good.”
KU leads the all-time series 49-34-6. That includes a 22-19-3 advantage in Ames. The Jayhawks’ last loss to ISU came in 2004. Since then, KU has won five straight, marking the program’s longest current winning streak over any opponent.