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Sooners must take heed to this year's Cyclone warning

September 14, 2018 ▪ By Ray Dozier

Usually, there’s not much interest for Sooner fans when Iowa State rolls around on the football schedule. After all, OU leads the series 74-6-2 and has outscored the Cyclones by an average of three touchdowns in the rivalry’s history. During Bob Stoops’ era, the two teams met a dozen times and the Sooners outscored ISU by an average of 41-10. But, last year, the Cyclones came to Norman and handed OU it’s only regular season loss with a 38-31 decision in Lincoln Riley’s debut season.

ISU outscored Oklahoma 25-7 in the second half erasing the Sooners’ 24-13 halftime lead. The turning point in the game occurred when OU running back Trey Sermon fumbled at the I-State 6 yard line, and the Cyclones wheeled 94 yards to tie the game at 24-24 late in the third quarter.

Austin Siebert missed a field goal on OU’s next series, and ISU needed only two plays to cover 72 yards for its first lead. The Sooners then marched 75 yards to tie the game at 31 with 7:18 remaining in the game. The Cyclones answered with a 75-yard drive for the deciding tally with 4:59 to go. Oklahoma stalled on its next drive at its own 42 and turned the ball over on downs.

I-State committed to pass coverage rushing only three and dropping back eight defenders. Plus, the Cyclones won with a backup quarterback. Kyle Kempt is back again this year as the starter, or is he? He’s listed as day-to-day after injuring his knee last weekend, but Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register told KREF’s James Hale on Wednesday, that Kempt has been walking with a brace all week.

Now, No. 5 Oklahoma (2-0) hits the road to Ames for the Big 12 Conference opener for both teams. Most Crimson faithful will tune in Saturday (11 a.m. ABC) to see if their beloved football team can get revenge against the Cyclones. But, the Sooners will have to get it done without their top running back. Rodney Anderson suffered a knee injury last week against UCLA and is out for the rest of the season.

Sermon will get the start, but Marcellus Sutton and T.J. Pledger should see plenty of action.

OU’s running game totaled 187 yards last week but lacked the spark without Anderson. Quarterback Kyler Murray led the pack with 69 yards and two touchdowns, and he also completed 19 0f 33 for 306 yards and 3 TDs. That effort garnered Murray the Walter Camp Offensive Player of the Week and Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors.

Special teams shined last Saturday. After UCLA took a 7-0 lead, Tre Brown returned the ensuing kickoff 86 yards to the Bruins’ 12 to set up Anderson’s touchdown three plays later for the tie.

Wideout Cee Dee Lamb, who led OU’s receivers with 7 grabs for 146 yards and a TD, set up the Sooners for a 35-7 lead with a 66-yard punt return in the third period.

The Sooners won, 49-21, and the Crimson defense continued to show improvement from a year ago. The D logged 12 tackles for loss, including 6 sacks. The first team held the Bruins to 2 of 8 on third-down conversions. Junior linebacker Mark Jackson Jr. had 10 tackles and combined with Curtis Bolton for one sack. Bolton, who leads OU with 14 stops this year, logged 1.5 sacks against the Bruins.

“Very proud of our defense and the way they played,” Lincoln Riley said after the game. “They were active. We got some good pressure on the quarterback, which was key.

“I think those guys are starting to understanding what we’re doing, what Mike (Stoops) and the group wants to do schematically and starting to settle in with it. We’re pretty active up front right now. We’ve got a pretty nice rotation with some of the depth, and that was definitely a critical factor.”

Iowa State (0-1) opened its 2018 season against Iowa last week after foul weather canceled a scheduled matchup with South Dakota State two weeks ago. The Cyclones dropped a 13-3 decision to the Hawkeyes.

ISU’s offense sputtered with 188 total yards. Sixty-six of those came on the first possession that ended with a field goal for the only points for the Cyclones. They managed only 122 yards on their next 10 possessions, which included eight punts, a turnover-on-downs, and a fumble.

I-State was still in the game most of the way as the Hawkeyes kicked a field goal in the second and third quarters for a 6-3 lead. Iowa took a 13-3 lead with a fourth-quarter TD to close out the contest.

Kempt was 15 of 21 for 126 yards, and backup Zeb Noland was 4 of 10 for 43 yards. Junior running back David Montgomery, ISU’s top offensive player, was held to 44 yards.

Kempt, who fired three touchdowns in last year’s upset, will be sorely missed if he can’t go Saturday. OU’s defense is much improved, and it must stop Montgomery and force the Cyclones’ into one dimension especially if Noland gets the nod under center.

Freshman linebacker Mike Rose led the ISU defense with 11 tackles, one for loss and broke up a pass.

I-State has to figure out a way to corral Murray and not allow the Sooner QB to make a quick decision. Shut down the running game and Murray will kill you with his arm. Last year, the Cyclones shut down the passing lanes, but Oklahoma has too many weapons to have that happen again this year.

Sooners 31, Cyclones 10.

Fast Facts

  • OU leads the series, 74-6-2, the most lopsided rivalry in college football.
  • OU leads, 36-2-1, in Ames.
  • OU is favored by 17.5.
  • Lincoln Riley is 14-2 (.875) overall; 0-1 vs. ISU; 5-0 on the road; 8-1 vs. Big 12 opponents; 10- 1 vs. unranked foes.
  • ISU coach Matt Campbell is 46-30 (.605) overall; 11-15 (.423) at ISU; 1-1 vs. OU; 5-8 at home; 7-11 vs. Big 12 foes; 3-6 vs. ranked opponents.
  • OU is 80-16-6 (.814) all time in conference openers; 26-13-3 (.655) on the road.
  • OU leads ISU 17-1-1 when the two teams have met in a conference opener; 8-0 in Ames.
  • OU's 16-game true road winning streak is the longest active streak in the country and second longest in school history (OU won 24 in a row from 1953 to 1958). OU also has won 14 straight Big 12 road games, a conference record.
  • OU is 5-0 in games played on September 15.
  • ISU is 6-2 in games played on September 15.

Articles by Ray Dozier