Inch ahead. Dig a deep hole. Claw back slowly, then tumble down again — hard.
That, in a nutshell, described another frustrating and draining night in Norman, Okla., for the Iowa State Cyclones.
The 15th-ranked Sooners (8-1, 5-1) struck with two one-play touchdown drives in the first quarter alone and pounded ISU 52-16 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
“That’s a really, really good football team,” Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads said on the Cyclone Radio Network after the game. “Defensively, they’re head and shoulder above (the teams) we’ve played so far.”
The Cyclones (3-6, 2-4) didn’t score a touchdown until Joel Lanning made a 13-yard connection with D’Vario Montgomery in the corner of the end zone with 5:08 left.
By then, any positives ISU managed to compile had long been buried beneath a crimson and cream avalanche.
Oklahoma amassed 684 yards of offense — with more than 400 coming during a 31-7 second half. The Sooners then knelt mercifully near the Cyclones’ goal line to wind the final few seconds off the clock.
Baker Mayfield completed 23 of 31 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for a score.
Lanning struggled in his second start, completing 26 of 51 passes for 260 yards, a touchdown and an interception. But receivers didn’t do the sophomore any favors by dropping several catchable balls.
Even sure-handed Allen Lazard mishandled a throw on the numbers that could have resulted in a first down as ISU showed some first half resilience and trailed just 21-9 at the break.
Lazard shined otherwise, corralling eight passes for 101 yards — his first career game of 100 or more.
Oklahoma bottled up tailback Mike Warren, who gained 43 yards on 18 carries. He’s now a mere three yards from becoming ISU’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Alexander Robinson accomplished the feat in 2009.
"There was no room at all to run the football tonight,” Rhoads said.
The clear star of the night: The Sooners’ defense. It routinely chased Lanning from the pocket while simultaneously shutting down the run game. Also in OU’s winning constellation: Mayfield, who hurt the Cyclones with his legs as well as his arm, despite absorbing three sacks.
Dale Pierson pounced for one of them, giving him 7.5 this season. He’s one off the single-season benchmark of 8.5 set by Shawn Moorehead.
Cole Netten hit three field goal for ISU in the first half, including a career-long 51-yarder.
But field goals couldn’t match quick-strike touchdowns and the Sooners poured it on in the second half.
The game started promisingly enough, though.
The Cyclones’ first drive spanned 10 plays and 50 yards, but stalled at the Oklahoma 25-yard line. Netten then drilled a 43-yard field goal to put ISU up 3-0.
Oklahoma responded with swift, lethal precision. The Sooners went ahead 7-3 on their first play from scrimmage — a 75-yard flea flicker pass from Mayfield to Dmitri Flowers.
ISU went three and out on its ensuing possession, but the defense stopped Oklahoma on fourth down after that. The momentum evaporated, however, as Lanning threw an interception and the Sooners again scored on one play— a 27-yard touchdown from Mayfield to Dede Westbrook that made the score 14-3.
Another ISU three and out preceded Mayfield’s 17-yard run to the end zone that put Oklahoma ahead 21-3 with 4:15 left in the first quarter.
The Cyclones’ defense pitched a shutout the remainder of the first half, but the offense could only muster drives that set up Netten field goals of 45 and 51 yards.
ISU hasn’t beaten Oklahoma since 1990. The Cyclones face No. 14 Oklahoma State (9-0, 6-0) Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium. The Cowboys stunned No. 8 TCU 49-29 earlier today.
"Every week in the Big 12 is a big challenge for us,” Lazard said. “We’re excited to play them. Obviously they’ve had a great year so far.”