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Struggle in Ames can strengthen Sooners

September 17, 2018 ▪ By Ray Dozier

The Sooners’ defense received a bunch of praise after showing improvements in the first two games of 2018. The D was dominant in OU’s blow out victories over Florida Atlantic and UCLA. But, as the Sooners made their first road trip to Ames, Iowa, the defense was sloppy with a dozen missed tackles and allowing receivers to blow by the secondary.

A year ago, backup quarterback Kyle Kempt passed for 343 yards and three touchdowns to lead Iowa State to a 38-31 upset in Norman. The Sooners rebounded to win eight straight games but lost to Georgia in the College Football Playoff semifinals. Last weekend, the OU held on for a 37-27 win, but backup quarterback Zeb Noland passed for 360 with 2 TDs. Receiver Hakeem Butler caught 5 aerials for 174 yards and a couple of touchdowns.

But, Oklahoma’s offense was too much for the Cyclones, as QB Kyler Murray completed 21 of 29 for 348 yards a 3 TDs. He also led the Sooners with 77 rushing yards (5.1 a pop).

OU took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter on Austin Seibert’s 21-yard field goal and Murray’s 75-yard bomb to Marquise Brown. ISU answered with a field goal early in the second period and added a touchdown moments after Grant Calcaterra fumbled on the Cyclones’ 47 and after catching a 38-yard strike from Murray. ISU needed one play as Noland fired a touchdown pass to Butler for the tie.

The Sooners then marched 75 yards, and Murray’s five-yard strike to Cee Dee Lamb put OU up, 17-10. The Cyclones stalled and Oklahoma drove 74 yards for a 14-point cushion. Myles Tease grabbed Murray’s swing pass from the ISU 7 and scooted into the end zone.

The Cyclones closed the gap early in the third stanza when Noland hooked up with Butler for 57 yards. The Sooners retaliated with Trey Sermon’s 22-yard run to cap a 67-yard drive and a 31-17 advantage with 9:20 left in the third. ISU rolled back with a 75-yard drive to narrow the OU lead again. David Montgomery scored on a one-yard run.

Both teams could only muster field goals—Seibert nailed two, and the Cyclones made one. Seibert’s second kick, a 42-yarder, gave OU a 10-point cushion (37-27). Parnell Motley intercepted Noland’s pass at the OU 33 to seal the victory. I-State, which totaled 447 yards, was held to 68 in the final period.

Oklahoma, an 18-point favorite at kickoff, squeaked by Iowa State, and many Sooners fans are fretting about what’s to come with an unimpressive performance by the defense. Twice in recent years, Oklahoma has traveled to Ames as heavy favorites but came away with 10-point victories. Still, Oklahoma finished with decent records and Big 12 titles.

In 2007, the Sooners were a 30.5-point favorite but beat Iowa State, 17-7. Oklahoma ran the table with five straight wins, including knocking off No. 1 Missouri by three touchdowns in the Big 12 Championships Game. OU, however, lost to West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl to finish 11-3 and eighth in the polls.

Eleven years later, Oklahoma was a three-touchdown favorite but beat the Cyclones, 34-24. OU finished the season as Big 12 Champs with an 11-2 mark but lost to Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals.

Articles by Ray Dozier