Going into the fourth quarter, the 2018 matchup of the Oklahoma Sooners and Iowa State Cyclones was starting to look a hell of a lot like the 2017 edition.
A year earlier, ISU and its backup quarterback torched OU’s defense en route to a 38-31 win. Like that game, the Sooners couldn’t have played more of a sloppy game on D Saturday by botching countless tackles, and they gave the ‘Clones ample help with mindless penalties. Meanwhile, ISU stayed in front of OU’s offense and stiffened up in the red zone, forcing the Sooners to kick field goals on three of five trips inside the 20. Even the proximity between the Cyclones’ statistics in the two games felt downright eerie.
This time, however, OU was just a touch better in all three phases, leading to a 37-27 win.
Kicker Austin Seibert drilled all three of his field goal attempts, and he ensured ISU wouldn’t get a chance to do any damage in the return game by booting all of his kickoffs for touchbacks and pinning the ‘Clones deep in their own territory on his two punts.
The Sooner offense produced answers every time ISU threatened to close the gap in the second half. Whereas Baker Mayfield looked frustrated in the last meeting between the two teams, QB Kyler Murray kept his poise, enabling OU to grind out yards as the game wore on. It helped that his receivers didn’t ghost him the way they did Mayfield in the previous game – Marquise Brown actually played one of the best games of his career.
Finally, even though OU’s defense took some big steps back from its first two performances this year, the Sooners played pretty well on money downs: ISU converted only seven of 17 attempts on third and fourth down. Mike Stoops drew up some solid pressure packages to harass Zeb Noland in obvious passing situations. The D also nabbed a late turnover to secure the win.
If you were expecting domination from the Sooners, they didn’t cooperate. They did play effective situational football when needed, though, and survived an upset bid by a program that is building a deserved reputation as a tough out. (ISU is the new Kansas State, by the way.)
More performances like that will almost certainly result in a loss or two that shouldn’t happen this year. But if that represents the floor, it bodes well for where the season is heading.
*Riley mentioned after the game that the tackling stood out as a weak point. Second verse, same as the first.
To be fair, David Montgomery has established himself as one of the better running backs in the country precisely because he doesn’t go down easily. Hakeem Butler is a big dude, too.
That doesn’t excuse nonsense like Butler running through four tacklers on his way to the end zone. There are plenty of teams left on the schedule who will force the Sooners to tackle in space. That’s trouble.
*The news that OU is working to preserve Caleb Kelly’s redshirt status is surprising, but I guess it shouldn’t be unexpected at this point. WILL linebacker Curtis Bolton’s rough outing indicates Kelly might still be have a role on the defense at some point this year.
*Cornerback Parnell Motley’s up-and-down day felt oddly familiar…
*OU still can’t count on the front four to generate a consistent pass rush. Stoops had some blitzes to go with twists and stunts that manufactured pressure on the quarterback. Kenneth Mann, Mark Jackson and Ronnie Perkins need to start winning some one-on-one matchups on the edge.
That being said, Neville Gallimore and Amani Bledsoe actually appear to be playing well on the interior.
*Keep in mind that this was ISU’s second game, so it’s possible that Matt Campbell switched up some things that weren’t working in the Cyclones’ first game against Iowa. To that end, I’d like to see what ISU did with Butler in its previous contest. Maybe Butler was ignored last week and ISU made it a priority to get him the ball in this game? That might change my opinion of the defense’s performance slightly.
*For the rewatch:
How much rotating did the Sooners do on the line?
How did nickelback Justin Broiles hold up in extended action?
Did ISU catch safety Kahlil Haughton out of position often?
*The brilliance of Kyler Murray and Marquise Brown overshadowed the diminished returns from the running game. Trey Sermon had a solid day, but there was nothing of note behind him.
Murray is a devastating runner, but if he has to run the ball 15 times a game, OU is going to be in trouble.
*Of course, part of the issue with the running game could have something to do with how well the offensive linemen are working together.
*Does Myles Tease have a scholarship yet?
*One of the more promising developments of the entire game was getting Carson Meier a catch. You can’t have an offense anymore in the spread era in which every available skill player isn’t a threat to do something with the ball.
For the rewatch:
How is Cody Ford playing at tackle?
Any issues with Murray’s vision in the pocket?
Did Creed Humphrey hold up versus ISU nose tackle Ray Lima?