AMES | In the midst of a trying season like the one Iowa State is currently laboring through, sometimes lost in the eight losses is the most important aspect of football.
Just what is that forgotten nugget of information?
For Cyclone senior defenders Jeremiah George and Jacques Washington, and for that matter, anyone on ISU's current roster, the answer to that question is easy ... because the game of football is fun and meant to be fun.
"It is what we talked about, some of the senior leaders," said Washington, one of two Oklahoma natives on ISU roster as the Cyclones prepare to face No. 22 Oklahoma Saturday in Norman, Okla. "We just felt we weren't having fun out there even when we were making plays in previous games. We weren't really cheering each other on, high-fiving ..."
That is why last week as ISU practiced for its homecoming game with TCU the Cyclones defense celebrating everything from bad passes to great tackles, and individuals came up with different celebrations for different celebrations.
The excitement and energy created during the week of practice for TCU carried over into one of the more energetic performances by the Cyclones in more than a month. And despite the last-second 21-17 loss to TCU, it reminded the ISU players of what college football is supposed to be about.
"Just having fun playing the game we love and having fun playing the game of football," Washington continued. "If it is not fun for you shouldn't be playing it."
Coaches felt after a trio of tough losses to Baylor, Oklahoma State and Kansas State, the Cyclones weren't having fun playing football. And they made a point of telling their team that prior to beginning prep work for TCU.
In fact, George says, they practiced having fun.
"We made a play and celebrated where in the past we'd make a play and looked to the sideline for the next call," George said. "So we practiced it and it was something that was real so we are going to practice it and continue to develop fun around here because we don't have anything to lose.
"We are in a very difficult position and it is the game of football and it is supposed to be played with a lot of fun and emotion and that is what we are going to continue to try to do."
George and Washington as well as head coach Paul Rhoads anticipate practices Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday will be similar in nature for the Cyclones as the get ready to play the Sooners.
Asked what fans should expect out of the ISU football team over its final three games, Rhoads was matter of fact in his answer.
"I'm looking for them to play with the same energy and emotion and passion that they displayed in Saturday's game (TCU)," Rhoads said. "A Top 25 team in Oklahoma and on the road, in a series that is lopsided as exists in the Iowa State record books ... I'm looking for a team looking forward to going to Norman and playing with every ounce of energy they have and finishing it with two more conference games."
ROHACH LIKELY TO START - Rhoads clarified comments he made during the Big 12 Conference tele-conference about the health of sophomore quarterback Sam Richardson.
There were questions that Richardson has a thumb injury on top of several other ailments, including a bum ankle, that doesn't allow him to throw the ball.
Rhoads said Richardson's ankle is not his biggest problem on the tele-conference, it is his thumb that is his biggest problem and it affects his throwing.
Against TCU, redshirt freshman Grant Rohach started and attempted 38 of ISU's 40 passes with Richardson throwing one and punter Kirby Van Der Kamp successfully completing a fake punt/pass.
"The plan for using quarterbacks Saturday was one with one and one with the other," Rhoads said of the TCU game plan. "Sam is a more effective runner and I think that is very clear to be seen with what he has done with running the football and Grant hasn't done running the football.
"But his thumb is good enough to throw with, he just can't throw as perfectly as he could if he was 100 percent."
Rhoads said it is too early to tell whether the Cyclones will have a similar offensive game plan for Oklahoma, but anticipates both Rohach and Richardson will play again.
As for who will start, Rhoads showed his hand a little bit.
"I don't think he's the guy (Rohach) necessarily yet for the rest of the year, but in my opinion right now he will be the starting guy for Saturday because he is more capable throwing the ball right now and that above anything is ... I want to go for that talent level with him being able to throw the ball with the most velocity whether it is touch, intermediate or deep ball, he gives us the best opportunity when it comes to that right now.
"Right now meaning Oklahoma week."
INJURY REPORT - Defensive tackle David Irving is questionable for the rest of the season with what Rhoads described as a non-football health issue.
Freshman linebacker Luke Knott had successful surgery Friday for a hip/groin injury.
"He was back on Saturday," Rhoads said of Knott. "Actually got back early some point during the game. He is riding a stationary bicycle very slowly just to have circulation and movement. It will be long road to recovery, he will not participate in spring drills and will be hopeful by summer time he will be cleaned up and closer to full speed."
Freshman quick guard Daniel Burton, who missed the TCU game, is not 100 percent but Rhoads anticipates he will play and possibly start against the Sooners. Senior tackle Kyle Lichtenberg most likely won't play.