Nov 9, 2019; Norman, OK, USA; Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy (15) throws during the second half against the Oklahoma Sooners at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
When Iowa State rolled into Norman, Okla. on Oct. 7, 2017, it had been nearly 19 years since a game between the Cyclones and Big 12 heavyweight Oklahoma ended with a single-digit margin of victory.
That 17-14 win by the Sooners in 1998 was the only game that ended within 10 points during the program’s 17-year winning-streak over the Cyclones. To put it simply, and to state the obvious, there might not have been a more lopsided consistently played Power 5 series in the country.
But, that all changed on Oct. 7, 2017, when the Cyclones, led by third-string quarterback Kyle Kempt, rolled into Norman and left with a shocking 38-31 win over the Sooners and eventual Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield.
The 2018 game, in which another eventual Heisman winner, this time Kyler Murray, starred, went back to the 10-point deficits, but it was clear the gap between Oklahoma and Iowa State was closing as the Sooners needed a field goal with less than three minutes on the clock in the fourth quarter to secure that 37-27 win in Jack Trice Stadium.
It was a gap that got even smaller in 2019 when the Cyclones scored 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to nearly erase a 21-point deficit, ultimately falling short on a failed two-point conversion with 24 seconds left in the contest that would have surely secured an ISU victory, but ended in a disappointing 42-41 loss in Norman.
While Lincoln Riley’s program’s talent still stacks up amongst college football’s best, the on-field product compared to Iowa State is no longer what it was during a stretch of 18 games where 17 of them could be considered dominations.
Iowa State can play with Oklahoma. They have shown they can beat Oklahoma. And they hope to do it again on Saturday when the Sooners visit Jack Trice Stadium for a 6:30 p.m. kick under the lights in front of a national television audience on ABC.
“I think to play with anybody in this conference you’re going to have to win in the margins,” Matt Campbell said on Monday’s Big 12 teleconference. “You’re going to have to do a good job taking care of the football. We’ve done that at times. We haven’t done that at times. When we’ve done those things on offense and then had the ability to tackle on defense, those have given us opportunities to stay in football games.”
The Sooners, who currently sit as -6.5 favorites at the sports book, enter Saturday’s game in Ames coming off a 38-35 loss to Kansas State in which the Wildcats rallied from 21-points down to rock the college football landscape.
Oklahoma’s redshirt freshman quarterback, Spencer Ratler, a former blue-chip recruit, was spectacular early in the contest, but became shaken as Kansas State threw more and more defensive curveballs and differing looks to knock him off his game. As a result, the Sooners’ last points of the game came with 2:46 left in the third quarter.
Kansas State ended the game on a 24-0 run to secure the program’s second-straight win over the Big 12’s five-time reigning champions. At the same time, Iowa State was locking down a 37-34 win over TCU to wrap up its first 1-0 start to conference play since 2015.
Will that loss to the Wildcats be extra motivation for an Oklahoma program that has suffered early season losses each of the past few years before rebounding to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff? Probably.
That said, Campbell does not expect to see anything too drastically different from what Oklahoma has always been — explosive, fast and incredibly dangerous for every team that steps on the field with them.
“I don’t know if from that standpoint I would expect anything different than what I would expect when I watch the film. It’s an extremely talented team. I think extremely similar in some areas. Some youth that’s kind of growing in their system. I think that’s the thing that as you watch them, just how truly talented they are,” Campbell said. “Some of those young guys are just kind of coming into their own. It’s a team that’s only played two football games. A lot of areas where they’ve got a lot of guys back and a lot of areas where they’ve got really young talented players that are flashing all over the screen. I think a very similar OU team that we’ve played in the past.”
Those OU teams of the past, as in the years prior to Campbell’s arrival, but more specifically prior to 2017, would have Cyclone fans preparing for a their annual (or semi-annual in the old Big 12 format) beatdown.
But, things have changed in Ames, Iowa. This is not the same Iowa State that lost to the Sooners 18-years in a row and has recorded only six wins in 84 tries against one of college football’s blue-blood programs.
The gap is shrinking.
Iowa State has proven it can play with Oklahoma. It has proven it can beat Oklahoma. Now, the hope is to prove it is not a fluke to a national television audience under the lights.
“Obviously, we want to get to the point in our program, which I think we’re a lot closer today, that you don’t just want to stay in games, you want to win those games,” Campbell said. “Still a lot of work for us to continue to take that elite step forward, but you want to measure yourself against some of the best of the best and we certainly have that in this conference.”