Sep 30, 2023; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell reacts during the second half against the Oklahoma Sooners at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Iowa State followed its well-worn blueprint for one-score losses early in Saturday’s game against No. 14 Oklahoma in Norman.
But the Cyclones added a disastrous new wrinkle to its long-time losing equation — an alarmingly porous defense that helped the Sooners cruise to a 50-20 victory at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
ISU (2-3, 1-1 Big 12) allowed a defensive touchdown on its opening offensive series, saw a punt blocked for a safety, and didn’t force the Sooners (5-0, 2-0) to punt until they’d built a 47-20 lead.
“I think we grew tonight in a lot of ways,” head coach Matt Campbell said on the Cyclone Radio Network after the game. “And then, obviously your fundamental(s) and details against a team like this that has elite talent, and they’ve got human erasers, and they’ve got a senior quarterback that’s playing really well within their system, and they’ve got great playmakers — and we’ve played great defense against those people, but you’ve gotta have great precision and detail, and the frustrating part tonight is we didn’t have the great precision and detail that it took for us to go and compete and win the football game.”
Cyclone quarterback Rocco Becht threw a pick-six on the third play of the game, but he responded on the following drive, connecting with receiver Jaylin Noel for a 51-yard touchdown pass that tied the game at 7-7.
The offense looked as good as it has all season early on, as Becht later hit Jayden Higgins for a 67-yard touchdown strike to make the score 21-17 five seconds into the second quarter. ISU kicker Chase Contreraz then drilled his second field goal — a 48-yarder — and the Cyclones trailed by just one, at 21-20, with 9:06 left in the first half.
That’s when the wheels came off for ISU, which simply could not get a stop in the first half. The Sooners scored 26 unanswered points to take a 47-20 lead early in the third quarter — and despite Cyclone safety Jeremiah Cooper’s FBS-leading fourth interception of the season — failed to replicate its first-half success on offense, punting twice and failing to convert on fourth down on its first three series of the second half.
Becht completed 15 of 33 passes for 188 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. Oklahoma dialed up pressure via the blitz all night and in the first half, ISU took advantage of the relatively light box by rushing for 121 yards on 16 carries (7.6 average). The large halftime deficit forced the Cyclones to be one-dimensional after the break, though, and the Sooners were content to abandon their quick-strike offensive approach and bleed clock while still knifing through ISU’s wobbly defense.
Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel completed 26 of 38 passes for 366 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. The sixth-year senior also rushed for two scores as the Sooners notched their most lopsided win in the series since pummeling the Cyclones, 52-16, on Nov. 7, 2015.
True freshman Abu Sama led ISU in rushing with 67 yards on seven carries, Eli Sanders had 41 yards on seven carries and Cartevious Norton gained 19 yards on two totes.
“Obviously from an O-line standpoint, just continue to do what we were doing,” ISU guard Jarrod Hufford said. “This night was a big step forward for us, but I think as an offense entirely, based on (this) game tonight, just not shooting ourselves in the foot. We had a lot of penalties and just a lot of Iowa State being Iowa State errors that we need to fix going into next week.”
The Cyclones will try to get back on track in next Saturday’s Jack Trice Legacy Game against TCU. The game kicks off at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on FOX or FS2, depending on the viewer’s location.
“In the moment, against great teams and great players, you’ve gotta have elite precision and detail,” Campbell said. “And for this entire team and our coaches, it’s continuing to be a great deal of, ‘Hey, if we’re gonna play great football here, our precision’s gotta be at its best.”