Oklahoma’s dream season was thrown off course Saturday afternoon at the hands of the Iowa State Cyclones…yes the Iowa State Cyclones. As far as shocking losses go, this one is off the charts. Counting Saturday’s 38-31 upset in Norman, the Cyclones have only beaten Oklahoma six times in their eighty-two game history with the Sooners.
You have to go back to 1990 to find the last times ISU upended OU. The Cyclones walked off the field, in Norman, that day with a 33-31 win and wouldn’t experience such jubilation again until twenty-seven years later.
How did they do it? The answer isn’t complicated, but it is a bit complex. It begins with first looking at what Iowa State did right.
The Cyclones Played The Perfect Game
Efficiency was the key to Iowa State’s offensive attack. The Cyclones completed 20 of 27 pass attempts for 368 yards and three touchdowns. They picked their spots to go vertical in the passing game by using screens and running plays to set up the deep ball. Three Iowa Sate receivers, who recorded multiple receptions, averaged twenty yards or more per reception.
Running back David Montgomery was the catalyst behind Iowa State’s offensive attack and the Cyclones used him perfectly. The sophomore carried the ball 17 times for 55 yards (scoring once) and hauled in a team-high seven receptions for 89 yards. The success that Montgomery had in both the running and passing game softened an Oklahoma defense that clearly has bigger issues than we initially thought.
The final aspect of Iowa State’s perfect offensive performance was zero turnovers. Pulling off an epic road upset requires the ability to capitalize on every opportunity while not giving the opponent additional opportunities. That’s exactly what the Cyclones did!
Defensively Iowa State was equally impressive. The Cyclones weren’t afraid to lose this game on the ground. They frequently dropped eight into coverage to remove options for Baker Mayfield. The gamble was to limit as much damage as possible and hope that the Sooners would make drive-killing mistakes on their own. A fumble in the red zone and a missed field goal later they were planting the Cyclone flag in the middle of Owen Field.
Oklahoma Dug Their Own Grave
When did Jordan Thomas regress so much? I’ll bring this up on our weekly podcast but my suspicion is that he’s always been like that and OU has been able to cover it up. The secret is out now!
On the long list of defensive excuses is Matt Romar. The Sooners desperately miss him in the middle but he’s not the cure all for a group that is obviously broken. The Cyclones used quick passes to get the ball out of Kyle Kempt’s hand before the rush could be effective and they ran Montgomery with just enough success to keep the defense off balance.
As bad as the defensive performance was, it was Oklahoma’s offense who provided the game changing moments. After building a 14-0 lead, midway through the first quarter, Oklahoma’s offense drastically slowed. They still managed to limp into the half with a 24-13 lead but you could feel the Cyclone momentum building.
The game changed when Trey Sermon fumbled on the Iowa State five yard line to end Oklahoma’s opening drive of the second half. A score there would have re-established momentum on the OU sideline, but instead it stoked the flames for the upset of the season.
Oklahoma then poured gas on the fire when Austin Seibert missed a 44-yard field goal on the next offensive possession. From that point forward it was complete meltdown mode on the OU sideline while Iowa State was beaming with confidence.
It’s safe to say that the honeymoon has ended for Lincoln Riley. You don’t get to remain in bliss very long when you’re the front-man at a program with high expectations every year. Now he’s got to put all of the pieces back together during the biggest rivalry week of the season.
There are a lot of moving parts for Riley’s program right now. At the forefront is Mike Stoops and the defense. The murmurs started after the Baylor game but the Iowa State loss will bring the angry mobs. Rebounding from this loss will be his toughest challenge to date and it’s going to require a lot more than just adjusting some X’s and O’s.