Sooners Survive Late Cyclones Rally
In a much-needed performance, the Oklahoma defense finally seemed to live up to the hype in 2021. While the defense stepped up, the offense sputtered most of the afternoon. In partial defense of the offense, the play calling was very confusing at times. The Sooners special teams are the ying and yang of this team. Michael Turk is the best punter in America without a doubt, while Gabe Brkic has gone from a Groza Award finalist to a kicker that has missed three straight and shanked a 25-yard attempt today. Possibly the most confusing area, the coaching staff did everything they could to give this game away. Undoubtedly, this will create some interesting conversations. With these points in mind, lets open the debate, as the Sooners survive a late rally by Iowa State.
This was clearly a tale of two halves. Neither team seemed to be able to get any rhythm going in the initial half. The first half was a story of an unusual, although correctly officiated, play to set up the Cyclones first and only touchdown of the half. The Sooners in like manner scored on a long 74-yard Quarterback run by Caleb Williams. The only other points by the Sooners in the first half was a 42-yard fourth-down fumble return in the final 15 seconds by Jalen Redmond. While the defenses dominated the first 30 minutes, the offenses seemed to get on track at times in the final half.
The Cyclones showed why they have been competitive against Oklahoma in recent years. Iowa State took advantage of a big height advantage over the Sooners secondary. As an illustration, Cyclone tight end and Mackey Award finalist Charlie Kolar had a career-high in catches today. Coincidentally, Kolar a Norman, Oklahoma native garnered 12 receptions for 152 yards and a touchdown.
Sooner quarterback, Williams struggled through the air for the second week in a row. Williams was 8-18 and only 87 yards and an interception. On the positive side, Williams is a big play waiting to happen with his running ability and his ability to escape. At times, the offensive line did a much better job run blocking. This was evident by Kennedy Brooks rushing 17 times for 115 yards. Clearly, the Sooners need to run the ball much more.
For the most part, the defense was the order of the day. While both defenses dominated for a majority of the game, at times they were aided by questionable play calling on both sides.
While being somewhat undermanned, the Cyclones battled the Sooners all day. Led by All-Conference players Mike Rose and Will McDonald, the Iowa State defense kept the game within reach for the offense.
For the most part, the Sooner defense turned in the best performance of the season. For the first time all year the defense played with passion and effort. All of this against a quality opponent.
The most puzzling part is, why did the coaching staff go away from pressure the last two drives of the game. Why change something that’s working?
Unfortunately, the sideline advantage goes to the Sooners opponent. Numerous times Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell outwitted Lincoln Riley and his staff.
As an example, how could Oklahoma not be ready for the fake punt on fourth and seven in the second half given Campbell’s history? Another case in point, Oklahoma was dominating the ground game in the third and early fourth quarters. Inexplicably, Riley changed his play-calling and went ultra-conservative. The final point from the sidelines, the defense had the Cyclones reeling by bringing pressure. When the game was on the line for whatever reason Oklahoma went away from pressure, which allowed Iowa State an opportunity to get back in the game.
The Final Word
In conclusion, Oklahoma made strides towards improvement today. The defense played with more heart, passion, and effort than they have all year. This was the defense everyone expected to see coming in to the 2021 season.
In contrast, the offense is struggling in certain areas. Williams needs to improve his downfield vision as well as accuracy. That being said, Williams provides the element of making a big play with his legs at any moment.
Riley and the coaching staff need to do a better job of play calling and putting players in the right positions to be successful.
All this needs to get accomplished in the next seven days. The Sooners toughest test of the season comes next Saturday night in Stillwater, Oklahoma.