OU heads to Iowa State, opens conference play

Coming off a 49-21 victory over UCLA, No. 5 Oklahoma (2-0) hits the road for the first time in the 2018 season to open up Big 12 conference play. The Sooners travel to Ames, Iowa, to play Iowa State (0-1) at 11 a.m. on Saturday on ABC.

1. Iowa State handed Oklahoma one of its two losses in 2017

On the off chance one of the members of the Men In Black hit you with a neuralyzer in between the end of the 2017 football season and now, yes, Iowa State came into Norman last year and upset then-No. 3 Oklahoma, 38-31. How the heck did that happen?

Well, for starters, Iowa State was a lot better than most people thought entering the contest. The Cyclones finished 8-5 with a 21-20 Autozone Liberty Bowl win over Memphis. Four of their five defeats came by a single score, too. It marked the first winning season for the ‘Clones dating back to the 2009 season and first winning conference record since 2000.

As for the game itself, then-redshirt junior quarterback Kyle Kempt caught OU by surprise with how well he played and ISU rallied back from a 24-13 halftime deficit. Kempt threw for 343 yards and three touchdowns, including a 25-yarder to Allen Lazard for the winning score with 2:19 left to play.

https://twitter.com/CycloneFB/status/916760775057903617

All of this from a guy in Kempt that had thrown just two career passes prior to the contest and played because ISU’s starter to that point, Jacob Park, was a late scratch for undisclosed personal medical reasons. (Here’s how the Park saga played out, by the way.)

Give Iowa State credit, they stymied Oklahoma’s high-powered offense in the second half. The Sooners were only able to muster up a 1-yard Dimitri Flowers touchdown run in the second half and Baker Mayfield’s last-ditch attempt on fourth down fell harmlessly incomplete upon Owen Field.

And, as karma would have it, OU got a taste of its own medicine after the stunner was complete.

2. It was a rare win in the series for Iowa State

Last season snapped an 18-game winning streak Oklahoma owned over Iowa State. Interestingly enough, Iowa State’s last win in the series prior to 2017 also came in Norman when the ‘Clones topped the Sooners 33-31 in the 1990 season. Outside of that, it’s been incredibly lopsided.

Dating back to the 1962 football season, OU owns a 45-2-1 mark in the series. The two teams tied in 1981 in Norman, 7-7. Overall, OU leads the series 74-6-2.

3. Ultimately, OU learned a lesson the hard way about putting good teams away

Despite leading 24-13 at halftime, it was Iowa State that was the aggressor in the second half. They outscored the Sooners 25-7 after recess and handed Oklahoma head football coach Lincoln Riley his first-ever loss at the helm.

Riley was asked at his Monday press conference what he learned from the defeat.

“I think it was a big moment for us of just playing as well as we did early and then having a couple opportunities to put the game away and we didn’t do it, and I mean if you let a good team like that hang around, you give them opportunities, every now and then you’re going to get beat and we did,” Riley said.

Junior defensive end Amani Bledsoe said he remembered Iowa State bouncing back after halftime and lamented OU getting lackadaisical.

“You can’t really get complacent in any position or any time throughout the game. We had a decent lead going into halftime and I think we just kind of lost our edge coming out into the second half and you always have to play on edge no matter who you’re playing,” Bledsoe said.

4. Matt Campbell and Iowa State earned high marks from Riley

To present day! Riley raved about Iowa State head football coach Matt Campbell and the job that he’s done revitalizing the Cyclones’ program.

Riley said Iowa State was the best tackling team the Sooners’ faced last year and mentioned the challenge in trying to stop ISU junior running back David Montgomery. Here were Riley’s opening comments from his Monday press conference about the challenge that Iowa State presents.

5. Iowa State dropped its season opener to Iowa, 13-3, and struggled mightily offensively

The battle for the CyHawk trophy wasn’t designed to be Iowa State’s season opener. But, as Mother Nature would have it, Iowa State’s original season-opening contest versus South Dakota State was never completed. It was cancelled after a 2 1/2-hour lightning delay with Iowa State leading 7-0 in the first quarter off a 55-yard Kempt touchdown pass to Deshaunte Jones.

So, Iowa State officially opened up its season last week versus rival Iowa on the road in Iowa City. It did not go well offensively. The ‘Clones finished with just 188 yards of total offense, 169 through the air and just 19 on the ground. In fact, Iowa State averaged less than a yard per rush against the Hawkeyes thanks to four Iowa sacks. Yikes! The Cyclones’ star running back Montgomery was held to 44 rushing yards on 17 carries.

It obviously didn’t help that Kempt couldn’t finish the game quarterbacking for Iowa State. Kempt threw for 126 yards for Iowa State before leaving with what coach Matt Campbell described as a “dinged” MCL in his left knee. That meant redshirt sophomore quarterback Zeb Noland finished the game, throwing for 43 yards on 4-of-10 passing.

6. Where does that leave Iowa State’s starting quarterback status for this week?

It’s still up in the air. Campbell said on the Monday Big 12 teleconference that Kempt’s injury wasn’t as severe as initially thought and listed him as day-to-day.

“It looks more day-to-day than it does long term. We’re all breathing a deep sigh of relief here. His availability this week is still up in question, but it’s a little better than what we thought the outcome was going to be on Saturday. The reality of it is that we certainly dodged a big bullet,” Campbell said.

If called upon to start, Iowa State has a backup in Noland that won’t be gun-shy of Big 12 play. Noland was forced into duty midway through last season’s contest at No. 12 Oklahoma State after Kempt went down with an injury. The Watkinsville, Ga., native completed 17-of-28 passes for 263 yards against the ‘Pokes before throwing an interception in the final minute with ISU at the Oklahoma State 3-yard line in a 49-42 loss.

Noland started the following week at Baylor, completing 14-of-28 passes for 180 yards with two touchdown passes in a 23-13 victory over the Bears.

Similar to last season, there’s uncertainty for Iowa State at the quarterback position ahead of its game against Oklahoma. Campbell said in his weekly press conference that the two situations are quite a bit different, though, in large part due to Noland’s Big 12 experience.

Noland certainly didn’t sound like a guy that would be bashful if he winds up in the spotlight.

7. Defense looks like a strength once again for Iowa State

Riley opened his weekly press conference complimenting Iowa State’s defensive prowess from last season and it looks like the Cyclones have a chance to be formidable on that side of the football again this season. Again, it’s just a one-week sample size to dissect on Iowa State, but they made life real difficult for Iowa last Saturday afternoon.

Considering its offense had five three-and-outs on the day, it makes what the Cyclones did defensively all the more impressive. Iowa State held Iowa to 271 yards of total offense as Hawkeyes quarterback Nate Stanley finished 16-of-28 passing for 166 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.

Iowa running backs Toren Young and Mekhi Sargent combined to rush for 93 yards on 32 carries. Young rushed for 68 yards on 21 carries, while Sargent tallied 25 rushing yards and a score on 11 carries.

Naturally, Campbell was thrilled with how his defense performed against Iowa. He noted they will continue to rely on that side of the football until their offense catches up.

8. Campbell gushed about OU quarterback Kyler Murray

Campbell has clearly been impressed by what Kyler and OU’s offense has accomplished in the season’s first two weeks.

“His ability to throw the football, his timing and ball placement is outstanding and it’s almost as if they’ve picked up where they left off. Credit to them and certainly credit to him,” Campbell said.

9. OU brings the nation’s longest winning streak in true road games to Ames with 16 straight

The last time Oklahoma lost a true road game Katy Perry was still crushing on then-OU starting quarterback Trevor Knight. No update on whether or not there’s still any interest there from Perry.

Yeah, it was a long time ago Sooner fans. The last true road loss came almost four full years ago in a 37-33 setback at No. 25 TCU on Oct. 4, 2014. Knight was picked off twice in that contest, including a 41-yard pick-six by TCU’s Paul Dawson that wound up being the winning score.

The Sooners have come up roses ever since. They’ll look to keep that streak alive in a venue they’ve never lost at in the Big 12 era. OU is 6-0 in Ames in the Big 12 era and 36-2-1 there all-time. And here’s the thing: If there’s one lasting roll-over from the Baker Mayfield era, this group digs playing on the road.

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