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Sooners' rally begins this weekend

November 7, 2019 ▪ By Ray Dozier

During the last four years, the Oklahoma Sooners have been the “comeback kids.” Each year, after losing a game, they rallied to run the table to win the Big 12 Championship.

OU lost to Texas in 2015 then won seven straight to claim the Big 12 crown. The Sooners dipped to 1-2 to open the 2016 season and went undefeated the rest of the way — winning all conference games. Iowa State stunned Oklahoma on Owen Field in 2017, but the Sooners rebounded with seven consecutive wins, including taking the league’s championship game. Texas beat OU in 2018, but the crimson and cream won eight straight, including a rematch win over Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game.

After losing to Kansas State two weeks ago, the No. 8 Sooners (7-1, 4-1 Big 12) begin their quest for another comeback on Saturday when they host Iowa State (5-3, 3-2) at 7 p.m. (FOX).

The Wildcats upset OU 48-41, two weeks ago in Manhattan snapping Oklahoma’s 22-game road winning streak. The Sooners’ defense was sloppy — missing tackles and allowing KSU to roam free on the gridiron to the tune of 426 yards (213 equally rushing and passing). Oklahoma was without two starters in the secondary in the second half — cornerback Parnell Motley was booted in the second quarter for kicking a K-State player. Safety Delarrin Turner-Yell suffered an undisclosed injury early in the third period. DTY is questionable for the Cyclones.

Trailing, 48-23, early in the fourth quarter, the Sooners rallied to cut their deficit to 48-41 with 1:45 remaining. OU recovered the onside kick, but it was overturned after replay that revealed the ball bounced off Trejan Bridges’ leg. The Cats milked the final 1:43.

Jalen Hurts threw for 395 yards and a touchdown and led Oklahoma with 96 yards and three more scores. Running backs Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks each toted the pigskin three times. Sermon picked up 9 yards, and Brooks added another 2.

I-State is 10 points from a perfect record. Two weeks ago, the Cyclones lost to Oklahoma State, 34-27, two weeks ago in Ames. With the game tied at 27 midway through the fourth quarter, OSU intercepted Cyclone QB Brock Purdy’s pass and returned it for a score with 6:47 to go. Purdy tossed two more interceptions down the stretch to squander any comeback effort. He finished 39 of 62 for 382 yards and a touchdown.

Purdy ranks third nationally with 321 passing yards per game. Deshaunte Jones is his primary target with 52 receptions for 586 yards but only one touchdown. Tight end Charlie Kolar has 34 grabs for 486 yards and 5 TDs. Freshman running back Breece Hall leads the ground game with 475 yards (5.9 per carry) and 7 TDs.

I-State has averaged 35.9 points (No. 26) and 479.5 yards (No. 16) per game. The Cyclones are sixth with 328.4 passing yards per outing.

The Cyclones boast a top 20 defense (No. 16) by allowing 342.4 yards per game this year—116.3 rushing and 226.1 passing. They have yielded 22.9 points per outing (No. 40).

Linebacker Marcel Spears leads ISU with 60 tackles, 6.5 for loss, including 1.5 sacks. Fellow linebackers Mike Rose has logged 8 stops behind the line, including 2 sacks, and Vance O’Rien has recorded 6.5 sacks.

The Sooners continue to have the country’s best offense by scoring 49.2 points and rolling up 598.4 yards per game. Hurts, the engineer of Lincoln Riley’s offense, is tops in the nation in many offensive categories, including the best QB rating of 224.9. He has completed 133 of 180 passing for 2,469 yards, 21 TDs, and 3 INTs. His legs have added 801 rushing yards and 13 scores.

Cee Dee Lamb has been Oklahoma’s top receiver with 102 yards per game and 11 TDs. Opposing defenses can’t afford to double team him as the Sooners have so many weapons in the receiving corps, including Charleston Rambo, who is second on the team with 70 yards per game and 5 TDs.

But, for Oklahoma to win this game and the remaining three contests, it must get running backs Sermon and Brooks more carries. A year ago, the duo combined for 2,003 yards and 25 TDs. This year those numbers have dipped dramatically — 754 and 6, respectively. Their load of carries this year has spiraled 64 percent from a year ago.

OU linebacker Kenneth Murray has been named to the semifinal lists for the Butkus and Bednarik Awards. The junior leads with 55 tackles, 7.5 for loss, including 2.5 sacks. He didn’t have an excellent performance against K-State with just 4 tackles and none for loss.

Murray is the leader of the defense, which can’t afford another lackadaisical performance this week nor the rest of the year. This unit hasn’t forced a turnover since Texas Tech in Week 3.

ISU has won seven Big 12 road games the last three years and is 2-1 this year away from Ames. They have won consecutive road games this year for the first time in 30 years. The Cyclones held a 2-2 record when they stunned OU, 38-31, two years ago in Norman. The Sooners tied the game midway through the final period, but I-State marched 75 yards for the deciding tally. QB Kyle Kempt threw for 383 yards and 3 touchdowns for the Cyclones, including with game- winner with 2:19 to go.

Last year, Oklahoma never trailed in a 37-27 victory in Ames. Kyler Murray threw for 348 yards and 3 TDs, and ISU’s Zen Noland tossed for 360 and a couple of scores. Hakeem Butler burned the OU secondary on those scores with a 51-yard reception and a 57-yard catch. Hurts gathered his teammates in a meeting after the K-State loss to put the loss behind them and to rally the rest of the way.

“Jalen ran the whole thing,” defensive end Ronnie Perkins said. “He talked the whole time, and everybody listened. That’s what a quarterback should do.

“We just put it behind us then. We just make a pact to each other: we’re going to do everything for each other, we’re going to play for each other and give it all we got.”

The comeback begins on Owen Field Saturday.

Sooners 34, Cyclones 17.

Fast Facts

  • OU leads the series, 75-6-2; 38-4-1 in Norman.
  • OU is favored by 14.5.
  • Lincoln Riley’s record: 31-5 (.861) overall; 1-1 vs. ISU; 16-1 at home; 24-2 vs. unranked opponents; 21-3 vs. conference foes.
  • ISU coach Matt Campbell’s record: 59-37 (.615) overall; at ISU: 24-22 (.521); 1-2 vs OU; 9-10 on the road; 5-9 vs. ranked foes; 16-16 vs. conference opponents.
  • OU has won 17 straight games in November.
  • OU is 59-40-4 following a regular season bye week in history; 5-1 if ISU is next opponent.
  • OU is 11-3 in games played on November 9.
  • ISU is 5-8-1 in games played on November 9.
  • Both teams have met only once on November 9; OU prevailed, 24-14.

Articles by Ray Dozier