Nov 3, 2016; Ames, IA, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) is sacked by Iowa State Cyclones defensive end Jhaustin Thomas (8) at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
It has been nearly 30 years since the last time Iowa State beat Oklahoma, but that doesn’t mean Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley is allowing his team to look ahead to next week’s Red River Shootout against rival Texas.
The Sooners extended their winning-streak against the Cyclones to 18 games last season in a 34-24 win at Jack Trice Stadium. That game, coupled with Iowa State’s steady improvement in the months since, have Riley on notice of what’s being built by the staff in Ames.
“I think a very, very improved football team,” Riley said earlier this week. “Another coach I think does just a tremendous job. Matt Campbell there has always from the days at Toledo and his short time there at Iowa State, I think a guy that gets the most out of his players. I think they’ve really improved a lot. They’re 2-2, but they’ve had a couple really close losses, both the Iowa and Texas games were very close, very competitive games.”
Iowa State was one of only four teams to hold Oklahoma’s high-powered offense to fewer than 500 yards of total offense last season. The Cyclones were one of only two teams, the other being Houston, to hold Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Baker Mayfield to a negative rushing output.
This season, Mayfield has been better than ever while pushing his way back towards the front of the pack in the race for college football’s most prestigious award. The senior signal caller is completing 75 percent of his passes for 1,329 yards, 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions through four games.
“They’re a very physical team and so we don’t need any motivation from the outside,” Mayfield said about the Cyclones. “It comes from within the fact that they’ve matched up against us physically very well the past couple years. I think that’s just the type guys they bring in their program and the coaching they instill. That’s something that you always like competing against. You’re going to get their best shot. We’re going to get everybody’s best shot, especially against a team like that. They’re going to be physical so I think it’s a good game for us coming after a bye week, realizing that we’ve got to get back into right away or else this team’s going to hit you in the mouth.”
Obviously, Mayfield presents a very real challenge for Iowa State’s secondary, a unit Riley considers to be amongst the best in the Big 12. If the Cyclones will have any hope of upsetting the No. 3 Sooners, that group will have to play its best game of the season thus far.
“They return a lot of guys defensively, especially in that secondary,” Riley said. “They really show up there. It think they’re one of the better secondaries in the conference. Some really good individual players. They do some really nice things scheme wise that give you trouble.”