Who: Iowa State (2-2, 1-0 Big 12) vs. No. 14 Oklahoma (4-0, 1-0 Big 12)
Where: Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium (80,126) – Norman, Okla.
When: Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023 – 6 p.m.
PxP: Jeff Levering Analyst: Mark Helfrich
LISTEN: Cyclone Radio Network – Varsity App or Radio Affiliates
Last Time Out…
Iowa State defeated the Oklahoma State Cowboys by a final score of 34-27 in Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday evening, snapping a troubling two-game losing streak.
The game was certainly well-contested, but the Cyclones would stretch their lead to 14 points in the second half and managed to keep the Cowboys at arms-length until the final buzzer.
Rocco Becht is easily the star performer in this one, going 27/38 for 348 and 3 touchdowns in a stellar performance. He threw the football to Jaylin Noel plenty, who finished with 8 receptions for 146 and a score. Eli Sanders led the Cyclones on the ground, running for 58 yards on 15 carries.
After trading some punts, Ollie Gordon II ran it 71 yards to the Cyclone 12 yard line before Alan Bowman scored on the next play. Iowa State would counter with two 30+ yard completions to Jaylin Noel to even the score at 7.
More punts ensued before long passes led to another Cyclone score, on which Gundy’s squad immediately countered again thanks to a long wheel route TD to Jaden Nixon. Iowa State would add two field goals and OSU one to make it a 20-17 score at the break,
Beau Freyler would snap building Cowboy momentum with an interception, and the Cyclones would add two touchdowns to make it 34-20. Daniel Jackson was another star on the day, scoring his second touchdown to cap a 6-catch, 90 yard and 2-touchdown performance.
Iowa State went into hold-on mode, and Oklahoma State made it interesting with a score and a stop before TJ Tampa picked off Bowman to end the game.
In all, the running game was still not ideal, and there were some bothersome play calls, but the offense looks like a competent Big 12 offense when Rocco Becht gets to cook. Defensively, John Heacock’s defense was good but not great, but Mike Gundy has always been able to rattle off big plays in this game.
The Sooners are 4-0 on the season and are coming of a 20-6 victory over newly minted Big 12 member Cincinnati. Oklahoma slowly let the Bearcats dreams fade in the second half and just overmatched Cincinnati to leave 1-0 in conference play. Following this matchup against Iowa State, the Red River Rivalry looms in Dallas.
Iowa State Offense
The Cyclone air raiders had their highest offensive output of the season against Oklahoma State. Thank goodness too! Iowa State finally opened up the offensive playbook and let Rocco air it our for 348 yards and 3 touchdowns. 9 different Cyclones receivers recorded a reception on the afternoon, so the ball was being spread all around.
What was really encouraging to all this was the passing game was being used to create an extension of the run game. Swing passes to running backs made their way into the offense and quick hitters to the numbers also showed their head. Eventually we started to see some run lanes open up towards the end of the game due to the Oklahoma State defense wearing down.
Our hope now rests with this coaching staff that they continue to to build off this performance and don’t fall back into old ideas. This weekend will be a tall order but the old way will definitely be the least effective.
Brent Venables is in year two of his tenure at Oklahoma and his defense appears to have found the stride he was searching for in year one. The Sooner defense is one of the best defenses against the run so far this season, which certainly doesn’t favor Iowa State in any realm. So far this season Oklahoma has given up 2.7 yards per rush which is right around Iowa State’s average on the season. That is good enough for 12th in the country on rushing yards per play.
Where Iowa State is going to have to attack is through the air. Oklahoma doesn’t get to the quarterback all that often yet and if Rocco has time to dissect the defense he has shown he is really effective when he has time.
Iowa State for the third week will face a stud linebacker. Danny Stutsman the junior linebacker is the leading tackler for the Sooners this season with 43 total tackles. Iowa State did a better job last week eliminating great linebacker play and this week will be no different.
Verdict - Oklahoma
Iowa State has had one good performance offensively this season and this Sooner defense will be a challenge all around. While I don’t expect Iowa State to win this matchup, I hope to see week-to-week growth.
Iowa State Defense
The Cyclone defense allowed over 400 yards of offense for the first time in 18 games. While some may hit the panic button, I wouldn’t suggest it just yet. This week may be a get-back-on-track type of week for Jon Heacock and the boys. The Oklahoma offense isn’t exactly the juggernaut we’ve seen in the past.
Expect better play from this group as I am sure this week was used as a big coaching week and hopefully we get some guys back healthy. The Cyclones still sit as one of the top defenses in the country. What is most impressive is their top ten standing in passing yards per completion at 5.3, which is impressive given that this defense is designed to allow short yardage passes in exchange for limiting big plays. There has only been one big explosive pass play against them, but more explosive offenses are coming.
Dillon Gabriel is averaging over 10.5 yards per pass completion, which is good enough for 7th in the country. His 1,227 yards, 12 touchdowns and 1 interception on the season is roughly what you’d expect from a 6th-year senior with a pedigree for efficiency. However, most of that offensive success has come against a very poor non-conference schedule, with nine of those twelve touchdowns coming against SMU and Tulsa.
While the passing game is humming along, the rushing attack is largely pedestrian. The Sooners are averaging right around four yards per rush and 157 yards total per game. Tawee Walker is leading the Sooners with 176 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground this season.
We have see Heacock’s bunch give up a long run on a couple different occasions this season to Iowa and Oklahoma State, so eliminating explosive runs could be critical to making the Sooners one-dimensional on offense.
Verdict - Toss Up
Iowa State’s defense is great and some may say Oklahoma’s offense isn’t what it should be just yet, but it’s still a talented group. This is a bit of a regroup game for the Iowa State defense as mentioned before and it will be a tall order. I think they are up for the task, but I am still a bit worried Oklahoma will make just enough plays to win this matchup.
Special Teams - Iowa State
Get us over 50 yards on the field goal and we will take you to town!
Winning Scale on 1 to 10
This is about a clone cones chance in winning this one. Not good.
Iowa State should be able to hang around in this one and they certainly will keep it closer than the opening 20-point spread, but I don’t think they will be there offensively enough to compete with an Oklahoma-type team just yet. That’s not to say they can’t build on last week and make another stride toward being a better and more consistent offense that can ultimately get Iowa State to a bowl game this season, but Oklahoma is the more complete football team at this point in the season.
Final Score Prediction
Oklahoma - 34
Iowa State -20