The spark for a strong finish ignited at Oklahoma

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Iowa State football coach Paul Rhoads sensed a change in his team the week it prepared to play at 22nd-ranked Oklahoma.

In his post-game talk to the team after an improbable 24-point comeback at West Virginia, Rhoads reminded his team about the prep work it put in before the trip to OU.

“We (get ready to) go to Oklahoma, we talk about urgency, we talk about energy,” Rhoads said to the team Saturday. “And, we did respond (to that challenge at Oklahoma).”

Iowa State outplayed the Sooners for an entire half and that boosted Rhoads’ spirits. He felt the game at OU foreshadowed how his team would finish the season.

“To finish like this – after 7 losses in a row – it doesn’t get any better than that,” Rhoads said to his team, which won its final 2 games. “There’s no bigger show of character and manhood than what you guys displayed.”

After losing to the Sooners, the Cyclones shut out Kansas a week later. It was their first league shutout since 2001 (Baylor), their second in the last 35 years and only the 11th in conference play since 1950.

Then the Cyclones scored 52-points– albeit in three overtimes – at WVU. That point total equaled the output at Texas Tech in 2010. That total has been surpassed in a league game only three times (Kansas State, ’72; Oklahoma State, ’71; and Colorado, ’62) since 1950.

Rhoads saw something during the week of practice before OU.

Few others did, except for the 100-some players and coaches who were determined to go out on a good note.