The Cyclones scored a historic win Saturday.
Randy Peterson/The Register
If I were to tell you that Iowa State played Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma, without its starting quarterback and Will linebacker, lost time-of-possession battle and had fewer rushing yards, what would you expect the score to be?
It surely wouldn’t be a 38-31 victory … with a dominant stretch of five drives to end the game.
The Iowa State coaching staff and players, after a dismal game against Texas at home on Sept. 28, learned from mistakes. I really didn’t expect to ever write this sentence, but Iowa State outcoached Oklahoma to a win and Oklahoma couldn’t match Iowa State’s athletes.
But that’s exactly what happened.
Let’s dissect those two statements.
I have to give praise to Iowa State defensive coordinator Jon Heacock and offensive coordinator Tom Manning. This was nothing short of a virtuoso performance against the nation’s No. 3 team.
Let’s start on offense, because that was actually less of a surprise, despite what some may think.
The offensive gameplan, minus Jacob Park, was simple and to the point: get the ball to your playmakers and do it fast.
David Montgomery is a freak. By Pro Football Focus’s count, he forced 15 missed tackles in that game alone. The assessment that he’s going to be able to do something special with the ball if you give him a half-yard of space and a football turned out to be spot on. Trever Ryen is one of the fastest dudes in the conference, and Hakeem Butler, Allen Lazard and Marchie Murdock used their size and position to create space for themselves in routes and for others in blocking.
Kyle Kempt had a big responsibility that was made much smaller by harnessing those attributes. He was cool and calm, which was helped by having simple reads. Many of his long completions were quick throws to the flats (Ryen & Murdock’s TD’s and Montgomery’s 40-yard reception) and letting those athletes do what they can do. Whenever he did have to go downfield, it was a simple two-or three-man read, peppered with confidence that if he lays a good ball out there, his guys are going to go bring it down (see Lazard’s final TD and the Butler pass at the end of the half).
Defensively, that was a marvelous second half.
I was communicating with a few former players from previous football generations and trying to group-think how to possibly slow Baker Mayfield and that Sooner offense. The first quarter did nothing to help us determine how to do it.
But Jon Heacock and Lanning did not possess the same questions that we did.
QB/LB Joel Lanning breaks down his big game.
Randy Peterson/The Register
Their answer was that they couldn’t … but Oklahoma could. What the second half turned into was a high-safety defense with Karmi Cotton-Moya, Reggie Wilkerson and/or Evrett Edwards operating in the back end keeping everything in front of them.
Linebackers played into passing lanes and made Mayfield come off his primary reads. They made a gunslinger run around and find players on the run. When he did, the high safeties were behind them. They made the Sooners earn their way down the field by playing simple, sound defense. They weren’t too aggressive like we’ve seen in past weeks, and that allowed guys like Lanning to run around everywhere and make plays.
No offense can be perfect all the time, and if you give them more and more snaps for the same amount of yardage, they’re eventually going to make critical mistakes. That fumble that Lanning somehow muscled away from two Sooners? That was the final play of a nine-play drive that took 4 minutes and 10 seconds off the clock. It was one of four drives on the day that the Cyclones forced the Sooners into nine or more snaps.
Cyclones outmanned the Sooners …
Oklahoma does not have the athletes in the secondary to matchup with Iowa State’s receivers. Plain and simple.
And man, does that look weird to read.
In the second half specifically, Iowa State used their size and athleticism (and Kempt’s calmness) and played games with an out-gunned unit. Iowa State picked on 6-foot corner Jordan Thomas on deep throws. Regardless, the Sooners’ coaches continued to use him in man coverage. This led to him being on the wrong end of a highlight catch by the 6-6 Lazard for the game-winning catch.
In the rest of the game, Iowa State used its size and skill to throw around the OU secondary with second-level blocks. If you want to see what perimeter blocking should look like, watch what Lazard did to the Sooner’s corner on Ryen’s touchdown. That’s simply one guy being better than another.
It’s rare to see a big win, but have that big win followed up with “OK, cool. What’s next?”
When we all spoke and wrote about culture being changed from years past, we hoped that something like this was possible. But now that it’s here, I can’t help but wonder what the next weeks have in store.
If the players heed Campbell’s words after the post-game celebration, then more big things are in store.
“You’ll remember this for a long time, but I refuse to allow this to be the end of our season,” he told them. “Because you do know this, right? Now everybody is coming for you.
“You’re winning here because of character. We’re going to flip this thing because of character. For you juniors and you sophomores and you freshmen, this is the start of something special, the start of something really powerful and special. Only if you stay the course.”
Jeff Woody is a former Iowa State football player and writes weekly Cyclones football analysis for Cyclone Insider during the season.
Source: Des Moines Register
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