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Football

WILLIAMS: Three Up, Three Down from ISU’s historic win over Oklahoma

Oct 3, 2020; Ames, Iowa, USA; Iowa State running back Breece Hall (28) breaks open a run for the go ahead touchdown during their football game at Jack Trice Stadium. Iowa State would go on to defeat Oklahoma 37-30. Mandatory Credit: Brian Powers-USA TODAY Sports

From a broad overview level of the program, two things stood out to me regarding Iowa State’s historic 37-30 win over No. 18 Oklahoma on Saturday night in Jack Trice Stadium. 

First and foremost, Iowa State is currently in a phenomenal position to put itself in a spot to potentially play for a conference championship at the end of the year. And I don’t want to see you guys tweeting about me about getting ahead of myself. I can look at the Big 12 standings and point out that Iowa State has better wins than anyone else in the conference and is in great shape at this point in time. Brock Purdy, not so much. He needs to focus on Monday’s practice.  

So don’t write that crap to me. I won’t read it. 

Second, just like last week, this team hasn’t played its best football yet. Think about that. Iowa State beat Oklahoma for the first time in the history of Jack Trice Stadium (sad but true) and didn’t play its best game. 

Had you told me prior to the game that Purdy would go 12-for-24 and Iowa State would commit nine penalties for 90 yards, I would have predicted a 17-21 point Oklahoma win. At least.  

The reality of Saturday’s win over the Sooners is that while Oklahoma is top to bottom a more talented team than Iowa State, the experience that Matt Campbell’s roster brings to the field (and the grit or culture if you will) won out. And that happens sometimes. It has to happen at Iowa State, a program that will never boast the five-star talent consistently like its brothers in the southern half of the Big 12. 

This was a culture-type of win, a win I would argue Iowa State had to have if it wanted to be taken seriously as a contender to win the conference. 

Iowa State is a contender to win this conference. 

Now, onto Three Up and Three Down from Saturday’s win over the Sooners, and the rest of the Big 12. 

THREE UP

1 – Breece Hall: Three games into his sophomore season, Hall is leading the Big 12 averaging 146.5 yards per game with five touchdowns. He’s tallying 6.4 yards per carry and frankly, on Saturday night, looked very David Montgomery-ish turning what should have been multiple two-yard losses into five-yard gains. 

Iowa State’s offensive line faced a significant challenge from OU’s defensive front and yet, because of some insane individual effort by Hall, the running game really didn’t falter. 

He’s on an entirely different level this season, compared to a rookie campaign a year ago. 

It changes everything for the rest of the offense. 

2 – The little things: Again, this team is far from playing perfect football. But a lot of the little things that plagued Iowa State in that loss to Louisiana have not only been cleaned up, but the Cyclones are excelling with now. 

For instance, the maddening drops. I counted eight of them in the opener. For the life of me, I cannot account for one in my head since. 

Special teams: A glaring weakness in week one has turned into a strength. 

Enter Kene Nwangwu into the conversation.

Is there a better story on Iowa State’s roster than this guy? 

He entered his career battling with David Montgomery for a starting spot, only to be beaten out (no shame in that) and blow out his Achilles in the offseason. He’s still getting limited touches but taking advantage of every opportunity he gets. 

In two close wins, Kene has ripped open a 49-yard touchdown run (vs. TCU) and made perhaps the biggest play of the game, an 85-yard kick return in the fourth quarter to set up the offense for success. 

Iowa State is not 2-0 with out Kene’s contributions.

— Here is a shout out to veteran kicker Connor Assalley. Trading field goals to Oklahoma touchdowns was not ideal early on, but those triples mattered. The fact of the matter is Iowa State can’t win games like these if it isn’t taking advantage of every opportunity to score. Having a reliable field goal kicker is vitally important if you want to be a serious championship contender. 

3 – Heacock: During our CF Halftime Show on Saturday night, I set the stage with Bret Meyer for what I thought would be an incredible second half. 

Lincoln Riley, perhaps the best offensive mind in all of college football, vs. Jon Heacock, who in my opinion is the best defensive mind in the Big 12 and maybe in the country.

Heacock’s in-game adjustments were masterful. Oklahoma’s offensive line made Iowa State’s defensive front look silly in its first two possessions of the game. But in possession No. 3, Heacock started playing chess. 

This is where Iowa State’s defense becomes so dangerous – after the initial feeling out period. 

The Cyclones are so versatile.

After that third possession – where Spencer Rattler narrowly got rid of the football multiple times due to the complex pressures that Heacock was releasing upon him – Oklahoma’s offense was never the same again. 

Iowa State pound for pound is an elite tackling football team. It has to be to play the Dime-Stack defense, like Heacock has installed so brilliantly over the years. 

— A guy who really popped for me on Saturday was Will McDonald. Nothing flashy, but technique-wise, the sophomore is quickly becoming much more than just a “third-down specialist.”

Mike Rose is a total freak show. 

— I think that’s it on the defense for now, although I could write 2,000 words solely on my love for the line all by itself. 

THREE DOWN

1 – Penalties: Campbell was harping to TV about this at halftime and continued the narrative after the game. Iowa State, at times, looked like an undisciplined football team in its win over the Sooners. 

I guess I can turn this into a positive. 

It’s uncharacteristic for a Campbell squad, and they still won. 

I just don’t want to see this become a trend. 

Iowa State finally has the dudes to beat most teams in the Big 12. What Iowa State can’t do is beat itself. 

2 – The Big 12 South: Mainly Texas and Oklahoma, who are a combined 1-3 so far during this season. 

What to make of it prior to next week’s “Red River Rivalry?”

Texas is who they are. The EXACT same team we saw the last two years. They will score a lot of points but cannot stop a soul. 

I am so glad that Iowa State played Oklahoma on Oct. 3 instead of Nov. 3. Spencer Rattler might be a future Heisman Trophy winner. The problem I see with Oklahoma – as I talked about all week on my radio show and via CF – is that they don’t have experience like in prior years. There’s a big difference in trotting Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts – guys who had seen everything in their careers – and a freshman out there and expecting everything to be fixed in a week. 

And Rattler doesn’t have a CeeDee Lamb either. 

That offensive line is insane but other than that, Oklahoma is a good to great Big 12 offense this year with an average defense. 

The Sooners will get better by the week but again, Saturday night was not a fluke. 

The better team won. 

Goalline stand on the first Oklahoma possession following a 51-yard pass from Rattler to Rambo was absolutely huge. 

3 – Brock Purdy critics: Has he been perfect through three games? Absolutely not. But other than the one horribly awful turnover vs. TCU, he was damn close to it. Purdy was the perfect quarterback for Iowa State vs. Oklahoma. 

The 12-for-24 box score does not tell the story. 

Purdy spent the majority of the game running for his life. But damn he was tough in the pocket. He tested fate by throwing into double-coverage a few too many times for my taste but hey, that’s Brock. 

What I saw from No. 15 in the win was a gritty dude who extended plays and truly looked comfortable navigating through traffic. It sure helps to have Charlie Kolar back too. 

Purdy averaged 4.1 yards per pass attempt in the Louisiana loss, one of the most horrific stats I have ever recorded while covering Iowa State. In the Oklahoma win, he averaged 21.7 yards per completion. That giant chunk of yardage does not occur if he isn’t extending the hell out of plays, on the run, vs. a stout Oklahoma front-seven. 

As is always the case, somebody is going to be in your text group tomorrow talking down the quarterback. 

Tell your friend to quit being an idiot. 

MORE MUSINGS FROM SATURDAY

15 K: The difference between zero and 15 thousand fans in Jack Trice Stadium was truly incredible. I was reading earlier this week that the difference between no fans and “some fans” – according to Vegas oddsmakers – is nearly six points per game. 

I definitely think that the 15,000 in attendance Saturday night made at least that big of a difference, if not more. 

Best in the Big 12?: Gun to your head, right now, who is the best quarterback in the Big 12?

I would probably take Max Duggan or Brock Purdy to lead my team. 

Sam Ehlinger was vastly outplayed by Duggan on Saturday. Rattler might be the best in the league a month from now … Charlie Brewer is very good … I need to see more of Spencer Sanders before I can put him into the conversation. 

I’d go Duggan 1a., Purdy 1b. 

Biggest aspect of the win nobody will talk about: Holding Oklahoma to a field goal on its opening drive following the big connection from Rattler to Rambo. Huge momentum shift in favor of the Cyclones. 

X gonna give it to ya: I have a tendency to fall in love with certain players, right or wrong. One of the guys I was super high on coming into this year was wide receiver Xavier Hutchison. Now listen, I don’t do this just to hype guys up. I hop on these trains because I am told things. “X’ is a guy who Matt Campbell fell in love with from day one. That’s why when he dropped a handful of passes in a lackluster debut to start the season, I was a bit dejected. Watching him house a 65-yard reception in the third quarter warmed my soul. 

And also, I can’t help but think of this song every time that “X’ does something on the football field. 

Last time: Don’t bother me this week with your “one game at a time” talk. We all know this is the case. But fans – listen to me – you should be thinking big here. Iowa State has a massive opportunity ahead of itself. The Cyclones have put themselves in a near-perfect position entering week three of conference play to potentially play for a Big 12 championship at the end of the year. 

Of course they need to take it one game at a time. 

No crap. 

But part of the culture change Campbell is always harping about is the fanbase actually believing in the program. 

I truly believe Iowa State is capable of winning a Big 12 championship this year. And I’m a guy who once said that would never be possible. 

Looking around the conference, it is time to put your fandom into another gear. There is a golden opportunity staring this program directly in the face. 

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