2019 Game IX: Iowa State (5-3, 3-2) vs. #9 Oklahoma University (7-1, 4-1)
Date: Saturday, November 9th, 2019
Time: 7:00 P.M. CST
Location: Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Norman, OK
Line: OU -14.5
Radio: Cyclone Radio Network
SB Nation Website – “Crimson and Cream Machine”
This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Going into the season, this Cyclone fan base (and myself) marked off their W’s and L’s. Now correct me if I’m wrong – but expectations were that the Cyclones would travel to Norman in contention for a Big 12 Championship.
Granted, things have not gone as planned, but the season is not lost, and ISU has yet to grab their “statement” victory. Thus far, the best win is against TCU? We still have OU and Texas on the schedule, and it’s looking like even K-State is much tougher than once thought.
All Iowa State can do is worry about themselves, and not other teams. I think the BYE week could not have come at a better time, and will allow this team to get healthy, and the coaching staff to self-evaluate through two-thirds of the season.
Remember, just a short two years ago, everyone thought the season was over when Jacob Park left the team, and in came a third-string walk-on. On the road in Norman, OK.
When we last left off….
The Clones come off a momentum-shaking loss to Oklahoma State two weeks ago. In my opinion, the Cowboys won the game more than Iowa State lost it. The Cyclones did shoot themselves in the foot with uncharacteristic interceptions from Purdy and THREE HUGE plays given up on defense, but any fan could see the better team on the field was Oklahoma State.
After getting gashed in the first half, the defense stood their ground and made tremendous adjustments to shut down the vaunted Cowboy offensive attack. But it was the ISU offense that faltered, as they couldn’t finish drives, nor break the bank for any explosive plays. Tom Manning may have gotten a little cute, abandoning the run as Purdy threw a school-record 62 times.
I can’t blame the coaching staff for that though. They came in with a good game-plan, just didn’t execute. After all the mistakes, the Cyclones still had chances to tie up the game, but Purdy faded down the stretch, throwing THREE interceptions on his last SEVEN throws, and it was all she wrote.
The Cream of the Crop in the Big 12 has always been the “Crimson and Cream” at Oklahoma. Since the year 2000, they have won or shared the Big 12 regular season crown an impressive TWELVE times, and are slated to finish atop again in 2019.
During those early years it was Bob Stoops who led the program, but the old man stepped away surprisingly in 2016, and youngster Lincoln Riley hasn’t missed a beat. Riley is a savant when it comes to play-calling and even has been thrown in the ring for multiple potential NFL jobs. All he does is produce great quarterbacks – hence the last two years, which have provided BOTH Heisman AND NFL Number #1 Draft Picks. This year is no different, as Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts has outperformed everyone’s expectations, averaging an insane 308 passing and 100 rushing yards per game, (2nd player ever to do so since 1996).
The defense brought in new coordinator Alex Grinch from Ohio State for much-needed help, but so far he has not been the answer. Missed tackles and inability to stop the rush allowed a much less talented Kansas State program to beat the Sooners 48-41 two weeks ago.
That was OU’s first loss of the year, and has them on the outside looking in for the College Football Playoff. They still have a shot (as they have made the playoff 3 of last 4 years), but will need some luck to get back there.
This is similar to the Harlem Globetrotters and Washington Generals, as OU leads the all-time series 75-6-2. We all remember the last time the Cyclones played in Norman though…
Joel Lanning made Baker Mayfield call him his daddy, as ISU claimed a 38-31 stunning upset of then #3-ranked OU. Ev’rett Edwards had something to say about that..
Iowa State Offense
To say the Cyclones got a bit one-dimensional last game is an understatement. Granted the team found open throwing lanes and were behind the sticks most of the game, but 62 passes is not what this Cyclone offense wants to do. Even Campbell said that in his Oklahoma State post-game press conference.
”Gosh, I never go into any football game thinking I want to throw 60 passes,” said the 4th year head coach. Well if Iowa State wants to piggyback off of K-State’s success they will have to focus on the running game.
First Key to Victory – RUN The Ball Collectively AND Effectively
Breece Hall has become a one-man wrecking crew for this offense lately, and has shown flashes of brilliance when he finds an open hole. Fortunately, the yards are there for the taking, as Kansas State ran the ball 45 times successfully for 243 yards.
But it wasn’t just running backs out of the backfield. An extra blocker proved tremendous for the quarterback designed-run, and K-State ran it brilliantly, especially in the red zone, as QB Skylar Thompson had FOUR rushing touchdowns. If there was ever a game to play multiple backs, multiple tight ends and utilize Brock Purdy’s legs – it’s this game.
It slows down the game, limits OU’s possessions, and allows ISU’s defense to breathe between possessions. All of those are critical if ISU wants to keep this game close.
The offensive line will be leaned upon heavily to create open holes, and for SEVEN straight games the same starting five has paved the way, improving greatly since the beginning of the year. OU can get to the quarterback, so it will be important to roll Purdy out and use the play-action pass to our advantage.
I expect Charlie Kolar to continue upon his banner season, as he is top-10 nationally in catches, yards and touchdowns by a tight end. The Sooners lost a few defensive backs to injury and another cornerback is questionable to play due to a possible suspension. Look for Tarique Milton to run free!
The receivers will have their opportunities, but will also be jammed in one-on-one coverages on the outside. Look for more screen passes and underneath routes by our veterans like Deshaunte Jones and La’Michael Pettway.
Again, ISU needs to try and run as much as they can, especially behind the legs of Brock Purdy. I expect more read-options and run-pass options, as the defense over-pursues and plays way too aggressive at times.
This defense is better than last years team, but even that wasn’t too hard to do. They have improved statistically in nearly all categories, most notably 3rd down defense (16% better), yards allowed (115 yards better) and scoring (10 points per game better). They have only allowed TWO touchdowns all year in the 1st quarter, and outscore their opponents 100-14 in the first stanza.
As always, they have traded beef for speed, and implore small rush ends (weights of 251 and 269). Their nose guard is a BEAST in Neville Gallimore, as the senior is a semi-finalist for the Bednarik award. This team creates pressure in a variety of ways, most notably outside blitzes, as 13 different players have accounted for a sack on a team that ranks third in the Big 12 in that category.
The top dog on this unit is do-it-all linebacker Kenneth Murray. The junior middle linebacker was tabbed as the Big 12 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, and has lived up to that billing. He leads the team in tackles and tackles for loss and is all over the field.
This side of the ball is full of inexperience though. In fact, seven of the top eight tacklers are freshmen or sophomores, and OU only starts TWO seniors.
One of those seniors is Parnell Motely, who was the guilty party of a kicking episode against K-State. His status is unknown, and could be a big blow, as the next man up is a true freshman. This team is full of four- and five-star talent, and Brendan Radley-Hiles was one of those stud recruits. He plays the nickel-back role to perfection, and flourishes as both a good run-stopper and competent coverage man.
Starting safety Delarrin Turner-Yell left last game with an injury, and is also questionable to play come Saturday. All in all, a much-improved defense, but one that got its confidence blown up last game - like a freshman asking a senior to the high school dance.
The Verdict – ISU
Playing on the road has never been much of a problem for Campbell-led teams. In fact, ISU has won SEVEN Big 12 road games in the last three years, after winning just TWO from 2013-2016. This will be a tall task, especially for the younger players, but I expect Brock Purdy to take charge. We will need multiple players to step up big, and I expect to see a big day on the ground. Time of Possession will be key.
Iowa State Defense
The BYE week helped out this defense more than anyone realizes. O’Rien Vance, Greg Eisworth and others all got much-needed rest, as they face the number one offense in the entire nation.
Where do I begin?
Jalen Hurts is special, and it all starts up front with his offensive line. Teams simply don’t get pressure (sacked all of 7 times), and I don’t expect that to change on Saturday. ISU needs to contain the running quarterback, and to do that I project more contain on the outside, and a SPY on Hurts. That will most likely be Mike Rose or Vance’s responsibility, and boy do I wish them luck!
Second Key to Victory – Wrap up Players in the Open Field
Tackling CeeDee Lamb is easier said than done.
Not only is he a threat to stretch the field on any given play, on any part of the field, and on any throw, but OU carries with it a multitude of players with game-breaking speed. It will be important for the Cyclones to tackle in space, and wrap up at the point of attack. So far this season they have been solid, but we saw some lapses last game versus the Pokes.
The secondary will have their hands full, as there is no one better at taking advantage of mismatches than coach Lincoln Riley. I expect ISU to stay strictly in zone packages as much as they can, and for our corners to get help on the field with safeties over the top.
Hopefully Greg Eisworth is able to play, as he is the most integral part to this defense. If he can’t go, expect Braxton Lewis and Justin Bickham to play the STAR role, mixed in with a bit of Arnold Azunna at times.
Third Key to Victory – FORCE TURNOVERS
We have all seen the statistic with Matt Campbell teams and winning the turnover margin. The same can be said for OU. They have yet to force a defensive turnover in FOUR STRAIGHT GAMES! If Iowa State wants to win this game, they will have to mix up their defensive schemes, and take chances to force errant throws and force turnovers.
The crème-da-la-crème of all offenses. This team is known for one thing and one thing only- offensive efficiency. And it isn’t even close.
OU is averaging a nation-leading 598 yards per game, which is 47 yards more than 2nd place. What’s more impressive is they are doing it with less, averaging 9.5 YARDS PER PLAY, which is 1.8 yards more than the next team. The Sooners have scored at least 34 points in 18 straight games, and 29 of the last 30. That ONE game – Iowa State in 2017, who allowed 31.
Now this OU offense has been in sort of an identity crisis. In the past, they flourished by beating teams not only in the passing game, but also on the ground. Running backs carried the ball of SIX times last game against K-State, and it has turned this offensive unit into being one-dimensional.
Needless to say, Jalen Hurts has been the benefactor, as 21% of the offensive plays have been quarterback runs. But Lincoln Riley has abandoned his running backs lately and allowed defensive coordinators to read them much easier. They have some dandys back there in Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks, as both average over an absurd 7 yards per carry, but the Heisman campaign for Hurts has hurt their unpredictability.
The Sooners have two of the best receivers in CeeDee Lamb and Charleston Rambo, as both average over 22 yards per catch and can break one at any time. Both are track stars, but Lamb is one of a kind, with 816 yards and 11 touchdowns on the year.
Tight end Grant Calcaterra was preseason All-Big 12, but has been out with an undisclosed injury for much of the year. I guess Charlie Kolar will just have to win that honor instead..
The offensive line makes this all work. They carry a stacked front that has kept Hurts jersey clean and paved the way for open holes and a clean pocket. Center Creed Humphrey is the best of the bunch, but both tackles have missed earlier games due to injury. They have gotten healthier as season progressed.
The Verdict – Oklahoma
Hurts and the offense will get theirs and then some. Its just whether or not ISU can hold the Sooners to field goals in the red zone, and can force turnovers. I expect OU to put up 30+, and there may be a few times where they score too soon. In the end, over time ISU will make adjustments and slow this unit down.
It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
After starter Calum Sutherland went 2 for 4 to begin the season, in comes Gabe Brkic, and all he has done is make all 10 of his field goals. On top of that, the redshirt freshman booted a 50-yarder last game, and has been made a successful kick in all of the last 6 games.
ISU is still trying to figure out the Connor Assalley and Brayden Narveson fiasco. My guess is Assalley takes over for all kicks in the short term, but your guess is as good as mine.
OU is 3rd in net punting, and they have a scary man back there on punt returns in CeeDee Lamb.
Iowa State simply doesn’t return anything, so we will just leave it at that.
Verdict – OU
At this rate, ISU is never going to win a special teams matchup.
Winning Scale from 1 to 10
While some of you have jumped off the bandwagon, I still think ISU has a legitimate shot to win on Saturday. A lot of things have to fall just right, but this coaching staff will put the players in the right situations to succeed. It’s just their opponent is one of the best in the country.
With that being said, I give ISU’s shot of winning this game similar to Ben Simmons making a 3-pointer. You know the guy is capable, he just has to take his shot…
Ooh boy - Lots of points in this one! I could see both teams putting up numbers in the 40s. If ISU wants any semblance of winning, they are going to need to pump the brakes, run the ball (and clock), and slow things down.
OU has the potential to score quickly, but so does Iowa State. It will be strength on strength with the offenses, just whether or not the Cyclones defense (and special teams) can be special enough to sway the outcome.
The realist in me has to go with the Sooners here in a shootout.
Iowa State 31
Hit us up with your predictions in the comment section below!