Iowa State returned home from Fort Worth, Texas with a 1-0 Big 12 record and a nice bounce back win. A win that could prove ever more important as the season goes on, with #18 Oklahoma coming to town off a loss to Kansas State. OU hadn’t lost back-to-back regular season games since 1999, and hadn’t lost in Ames since 1960. Iowa State would be ready, though. Armed with the will of (some) fans returning, Brocktober beginning, and the all black unis, the Cyclones played their game, and took it to Spencer Rattler and the Sooners.
What Went Right
For the first 2 weeks of the season, Cyclone fans have been wondering, “Where has the Brock Purdy of the last year or so gone?” Well, I think we found him. He was simply waiting for his month to start. Sure, he made some odd decisions and forced the ball a few times, but when he gets in a rhythm like he was in Saturday night, Iowa State has a chance.
Purdy only completed 50% of his passes, but he hit the ones he needed. He also did a lot more with his legs. Keeping plays alive, finding receivers on the run, and avoiding a vast majority of the pressure that a fast and athletic Sooner defense sent his way. He had a few throws, like the one below, that were just picture perfect on the run.
Bend Don’t Break Defense
It’s not very often Big 12 teams win by kicking field goals. Iowa State’s defense made sure to give the offense every chance it got to try and break free from Oklahoma. The Cyclones forced the Sooners into 4 field goal tries (missing 1 at the end of the half), including one attempt at the 1 yard line and another one in the red zone. The Cyclones’ ability to shut down the Sooners, even twice, in the red zone was a huge step to keeping the team in the game. Hey, and someone get Gabe Brkic a Natty Lite.
SOMEONE GET THAT KICKER A NATTY LITE— Wide Right & Natty Lite (@WideRtNattyLt) October 4, 2020
Yup. Just like everyone predicted. The Cyclones’ Special Teams unit was really, really good on Saturday. Sure, OU had some nice returns, but none of them topped what Kene Nwangwu did with 8:17 to go. Oklahoma had just forced a turnover and taken the lead on a quick 4-play drive. The Cyclones were dead... and Nwangwu breathed life back into the lungs of the team, the stadium, and all the fans at home.
Not to mention, Connor Assalley was a perfect 3/3 (4/4 on PAT), and Joe Rivera’s only punt was a beauty that pinned Oklahoma at their own 13 yard line early in the 2nd quarter. All around an excellent performance for a unit that desperately needed one.
What Went Wrong
Penalties, Penalties, and more Penalties
Iowa State under Matt Campbell has been a very disciplined and “clean” football team. Saturday night wasn’t their cleanest performance. The Cyclones had averaged 3 penalties for 24.5 penalty yards through their first 2 games. The script was completely flipped in game 3 when the Cyclones committed 9 penalties for 90 yards. We can argue all day and night about refs and penalties. What should’ve or shouldn’t have been called, what one team or another did or didn’t do, etc. Bottom line: Iowa State can’t have this happen week after week. Let’s hope it was the exception, not the norm.
Oklahoma is known to make the big play, especially as of the last few years. Iowa State did a fine job stopping them in the red zone, but big plays still plagued them. Oklahoma made sure to set the tone early with a 51 yard pass to Charleston Rambo on the first drive of the game, and Rattler looked deep often. Austin Stogner and Seth McGowan also had 30+ yard receptions on the day. Fortunately, the secondary was able to adjust as the game went on, and, much like tackling, it seemed to sure up by the end... but the deep ball is still very much a threat to attacking this Cyclone defense, at least for now. It needs to improve more if the Cyclones want to fight for a Big 12 title later in the year.