Matt Campbell gets to take on one of the finest mullets in all of college football Saturday — Mike Gundy and the Oklahoma State University Cowboys.
2016 Game VI: Iowa State (1-4, 0-2) vs. Oklahoma State University (3-2, 1-1)
Time: 2:30 p.m. CDT
Location: Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, OK
Line: Oklahoma State -17
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
SBN Nation Website – Cowboys Ride for Free
When We Last Left Off
Iowa State played one of its best games of the year — for three quarters that is. The offense looked like the 1999 St. Louis Rams, converting third downs, running back Mike Warren running wild, and Joel Lanning playing the game of his life. And then the fourth quarter happened.
ISU went from over 450 yards and scoring touchdowns on their first six drives to 7 total yards and 0 points in the fourth quarter.
Although the good guys lost 45-42 on a last-second field goal, we as fans felt a rush of emotion that hasn’t been stroked in a long time. Maybe this season isn’t lost after all. The crowd was back on their feet and the atmosphere in Jack Trice was electric.
If there’s one thing I have to say, it’s that Matt Campbell and his crew are doing things the right way. This team has improved immensely from week one, and probably more than any other team in the country. It will be exciting to see what’s in store for the rest of conference play.
Oklahoma State leads the all-time series 29-18-3, winning the previous four contests. You all know what happened the last time ISU beat the Cowboys on that wonderful night in 2011, but most forget the last time ISU won in Stillwater. I’ll shut up and let the late great Pete Taylor do the talking.
Oklahoma State Tidbits
The Cowboys come in with a 3-2 record, and should be 4-1. The #Big12Refs added to their apology wall, after OSU was screwed over in a loss to Central Michigan. They were picked by many to vie for the top of the Big 12 Conference this year, and so far they have underperformed. OSU’s other loss is to Baylor a few weeks ago by a score of 35-24.
I don’t know about you, but ISU put up 42 on the Baylor Bears. I’m smelling something good happening!
Last week’s performance by Joel Lanning was his best in a Cyclone uniform. The junior signal-caller started off completing 17 of his first 20 pass attempts and led ISU on six consecutive touchdown-scoring drives. Joel will have to continue his accurate throws against this vaunted defense, and boy does he have a bevy of playmakers to get the ball to.
Deshaunte Jones has turned into a weapon for this team, as he scored for the third time in two weeks, and is really coming into his own. His counterpart Trever Ryen led the team in receiving yards last week, and guys like Carson Epps and Dondre Daley are peaking at the right time. Allen Lazard has been hampered with an injury, but was also keyed upon last week with a safety over the top. If that happens, other guys have to be open, and we took full advantage of it against Baylor.
First Key to Victory — Please Lord, No Turnovers
Oklahoma State thrives on scoring points off turnovers, in fact, since 2010 they lead the nation in non-offensive touchdowns. It will be imperative for the line to give Lanning time in the pocket and for him to take the throws that he is given.
The offensive line is starting to get in the groove. Without suspended Jaypee Philbert (still not on the depth chart) this unit has grown together as one. We also were able to help out their deficiency by spreading out the field with a quad (4-receiver set) and also a tight end for blocking purposes. This coaching staff noticed a lack of penetration from the front and has made the necessary changes.
Second Key to Victory – Run the Ball with Lanning
Last year against the Cowboys, Iowa State found a hole in the Cowboy defense, and that was #7 outside the pocket. He took advantage of roll-outs and quarterback reads on his way to his best rushing performance as a Cyclone. If ISU wants to keep this one close, they need to take advantage of Joel’s power and straight ahead speed.
Running back Mike Warren is getting back to where he used to being, going over 100 yards for the second week in a row, and he was a true bell-cow back against Baylor, with 30 carries to his name. Look for him to get plenty more carries in this one.
Oklahoma State Defense
While the sample size is limited, so far this unit has performed above standards for the Big 12 Conference. The Cowboys’ defense is known for their takeaways, and defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer has to be happy so far with the output. OSU leads the Big 12 in red zone defense, turnovers gained, defensive touchdowns, and blocked kicks.
The man leading the charge with those blocked kicks is Preseason All Big-12 defensive tackle Vincent Taylor. The 310-pound junior blocked two PATs last week, and can pressure the quarterback as well. The Cowboys are mainstays in the backfield, with nearly eight tackles-for-loss per game. Also their defensive line is rich with depth and talent.
Leading the team in tackles is another Preseason All Big-12 performer in free safety Jordan Sterns. The 6-foot senior comes off consecutive seasons with 100 tackles or more and ranks sixth among all active defensive backs in that category.
Oklahoma State runs a 4-2-5 scheme, and their nickel back has taken advantage of his opportunities. Senior Jordan Burton is all over the field for the Cowboys, and ranks 10th in the conference in stops. He was knocked out of the game last week with a shoulder injury, but has been upgraded to probable for Saturday. Their cornerbacks are veterans, led by Roman Richards with two interceptions on the year.
Verdict — Oklahoma State
There are not a lot of deficiencies with this OSU defense, as they get good pressure up front, and are able to force turnovers at an alarming rate. Texas ran all over them in the first half but was shut down in the second stanza. The red zone battle will be a big one, as ISU leads the conference in efficiency (100%), and Okie State counters by topping the Big 12 in red zone defense (66% Conversion Rate).
ISU needs to continue their success with positive rushing yards on first and second down, and manageable situations for Joel to be successful on third down. Campbell talks about situational football, and last week we saw the realization that this team can move the ball against a superior opponent.
I’m going to tell you like it is: this defensive line can’t stop the run, especially on the outside. Our defensive ends were manhandled all day against Baylor, and the linebackers were too slow to read and react (and wrap up). Defensive coordinator Jon Heacock made a decision to play against the pass, and it worked on that end, but the Cyclones had one arm tied behind their backs trying to stop the run.
Third Key to Victory — Linebackers Have to Wrap Up
Oklahoma State will run a similar scheme to Baylor’s with a four-wide set and carry some big targets in the slot. I think the nickel approach is the way to go, but our margin for error in the linebacking department is so small. Willie Harvey and Reggan Northrup will have to corral downfield runners at the point of attack, and we need to see better judgment from our ends so they don’t get sucked in on outside counters and sweeps.
The secondary has been a bright spot all year for this team and they will have their hands full with All-American receiver James Washington. The Cowboys love to throw the ball deep and our safeties will have to cover a lot of field. I’m not as concerned about Kamari Cotton-Moya as I am about Mike Johnson. So far on the year, Johnson has missed multiple assignments and it will be very important for him to get to the ball on those long throws and disrupt the deep pass.
I am confident in every one of our cornerbacks to be in the right place at the right time, but sometimes that’s not enough. They will have to wrap up along with the linebackers.
Oklahoma State Offense
Quarterback Mason Rudolph is not your typical system quarterback. This guy has Sunday talent written all over him and displays an assault rifle for an arm. He can fit it in tight windows 20 and 30 yards downfield, and will definitely get his in this affair. So far, the 6-foot-5 junior has thrown just two interceptions on the year, and his 335 passing yards per game lead the Big 12 Conference.
The Cowboys have found their way in the running game. Mike Gundy was once known as a pass-first guy, but in the last three games they have come away with a 100-yard rusher, and that has increased their total offensive output from 367 yards per game all the way up to 562.
They’re led in the ground attack behind true freshman Justice Hill, who has already won two Big 12 Newcomer of the Week awards and run for 346 yards on the year. His counterpart Rennie Childs is the bigger red zone back, as he has six touchdowns.
James Washington is just another top performer in a long line of historic wide receivers at Oklahoma State. The 6-foot junior leads the Big 12 in receiving yards and is a huge downfield threat, averaging more than 20 yards per reception. His yards after the catch are dangerous and it will be important for ISU defenders to take him down with one hit, otherwise he is gone.
Washington left last week with a head injury and is considered questionable for the game. If he’s out, that’s a huge break for the Cyclones. Next to him are Jalen McCleskey, who averages over 90 yards per game in Big 12 play, and Jhajuan Seales.
The offensive line carries four upperclassmen, but if there is one knock on them, it’s the fact that Rudolph has been sacked over three times per game.
Verdict – Oklahoma State
It’ll be interesting to see what scheme Heacock puts into motion against yet another high-powered offense. Oklahoma State has looked more to run the ball as of late, and that could spell disaster for the Iowa State defense. I have faith in our secondary, but we have yet to see as good of a quarterback-receiver tandem as Rudolph to Washington. Watch out — Oklahoma State can score in a heartbeat.
ISU has continued to thrive on special teams. The returners — Trever Ryen fielding punts, and Kene Nwangwu kicks — have served as a dynamic duo for this program and can switch the field position immensely.
Cole Netten still hasn’t missed a field goal (cross your fingers), and punter Colin Downing, when called upon, has been a game breaker.
Oklahoma State’s kicker Ben Grogan is 7-for-9 on the year in field goals and their return man goes by the name of Barry J. Sanders. Yes that Barry Sanders.
Verdict – Iowa State
I am excited to see how Iowa State comes to play. It’s clear that this team has improved immensely from week one to now. Typically after a heartbreaking loss you see a let-down performance, especially when you’re playing in the doldrums of Big 12 road play.
ISU has never fared too well in Stillwater, and I don’t see that changing. I want to see a game plan on defense that can be at least competent at stopping the run, especially because our corners have the speed and talent to stay with their receivers.
On the offensive side of the ball, it would be great for Lanning to repeat his performance from last week, but ladies and gentlemen, that was otherworldly. I hope the man proves me wrong, but I could see the continuation of the quarterback combo with both Lanning and Jacob Park sharing snaps.
ISU will have to chew the clock, sustain drives, and not suck at stopping the run. They do that and they keep the game close. They don’t and OSU comes out with an overwhelming victory.
Iowa State 27
Oklahoma State 41