Back in the struggle bus... but this time it’s the defense? What uh... what happened to the Cyclone defense, guys? I get OU has an offense that can run with the best of them, but even the top-tier offenses have struggled against Jon Heacock and company. Hopefully that gets squared up for next Saturday night with TCU coming to town. With that all wrapped up, lets take a deeper dive into the final trip to Norman and matchup with the Sooners before they high tail it to the SEC next year.
What Went Wrong
Big Plays Allowed
Saturday was the second week in a row where it seemed like the big play hurt the Cyclones. Two weeks ago it was a pair of plays leading to two Cowboy scores, and this past weekend it was a flurry of deep balls completed by Dillon Gabriel to multiple guys down the field. Whether it was Jalil Farooq, Nic Anderson, Brenen Thompson, or Jayden Gibson, it seemed like every Sooner was creating separation deep down the field and Gabriel was finding them.
Part of that is on the secondary. The back end of this defense is way too talented to be giving those up. Guys like Tampa, Freyler, Cooper, everyone that’s running snaps back there has earned those spots and at least the first 3 weeks, they locked it down as expected. There has been some shakiness back there since the Ohio game, but I think some of that actually falls on the shoulders of the front 7, or should I say 6.
Lack of Pressure
Iowa State has sacked opposing QBs 8 times through 5 games. Not great, but also not the worst. That being said, five of those eight sacks came against UNI in week 1. That’s 3 sacks over the last four games. That’s where it becomes the worst. There’s a lot of young talent getting reps on the defensive line this year, in fact, there’s not a single senior up front in the trenches. That said, there’s a lot of talent. Tyler Onyedim, Domonique Orange, Ikenna Ezeogu, and others have all shown flashes, but right now it’s not consistent enough to get to the quarterback on a regular basis, and when you’re only rushing 3, if you’re not getting pressure, you’re putting a lot of faith in the guys on the back end. For as great as those guys back there have been, they can’t cover the entire field for the whole game, and there was no better example of that then in Norman.
I think the biggest things that people have mentioned about Rocco Becht this year is that the vast majority of the time, he hasn’t put the ball in harm’s way. If the throw wasn’t there, he wasn’t trying to force anything. That changed drastically on Saturday.
While Becht had his moments on Saturday (the big completions to Noel and Higgins) he largely struggled at getting the ball completed going 15 of 33 for 188 yards, most of that coming in the 1st half. The biggest mistakes though were definitely the pair of interceptions he threw. The first was on the opening drive of the game that was returned for a touchdown on a deep pass where he wildly underthrew Jaylin Noel. The second was a ball very similar to one Purdy had in Waco back in 2017. Just a ball you need to throw away and make sure its far enough out of bounds to where no one on the defense can make a play on it.
It’s mistakes like those that Rocco will need to avoid moving forward. The offense was rolling for a big portion of the 1st half, and Rocco and the passing game was a large reason for that. Hopefully they figure out how to keep it throughout the game while limiting those mistakes.
What Went Right
The Running Game lives?
Wow, who’d have thought. When you start to stretch the field vertically and you make defenses spread themselves out across more of the field, it makes the offensive line’s job in setting up run blocks way easier. Glad we’re all on the same page now.
Okay, poking fun at the offense aside, what a breath of fresh air that was. Iowa State hit 150 total yards on the ground and had some huge runs from all three of their main backs in Norton, Sanders, and Sama. 5.6 yards per rush for the team as a whole and the top 3 backs were all above that at 8.5, 5.9, and 9.6 per carry respectively. It was a quiet day as far as total carries as Iowa State was playing catch-up the whole night, but as long as the offense continues to “Let Rocco Cook” the running game should continue to open up.
No disrespect to the previous Cyclone greats at kicker like Connor Assalley, Andrew Mevis, and others, but I love the fact that, at least personally, I feel so confident and comfortable when I see Contreraz jog out there. He was perfect again on the day hitting both of his attempts from 35 and 48 yards, both of which were miles good on distance and were hit squarely between the uprights.
Chase moves to 7 (*should be 8) of 10 on the year while continuing to be perfect on extra points at 11 of 11.
*: That kick at Ohio was good