No. 14 Oklahoma trying to keep focus on Iowa State and its stingy defense before showdown with Texas

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Oklahoma should know better than to get ahead of itself.

The Sooners have had several seasons crippled by plucky underdogs in recent years, and Iowa State has been one of their biggest nuisances. The Cyclones defeated Oklahoma in 2017 and 2020 and have pushed the Sooners several other times.

Now, Iowa State could stop the 14th-ranked Sooners (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) from taking an unbeaten record into next week's showdown with Texas. Oklahoma coach Brent Venables said Iowa State (2-2, 1-0) has built a winning culture that makes the unranked Cyclones a threat.

“They’ll have great confidence,” he said. “This will be a disciplined, tough, physical football team. And it will be again a good challenge for us this week.”

The Sooners say they are taking steps in the proper order.

“I think coach Venables does a great job with us and with the team on that,” Oklahoma center Andrew Raym said. “We have a huge focus on just going 1-0 each week. We don’t look ahead. Everything this week is about Iowa State.”

Oklahoma allows just 8.5 points per game, second-best in the nation. Iowa State leads the Big 12 in total defense, allowing 292.5 yards per game, but it will face an Oklahoma team averaging 46.8 points per game; Dillon Gabriel passed for 322 yards in Oklahoma's 20-6 win over Cincinnati last week.

Iowa State coach Matt Campbell cited Gabriel's experience as a concern. Gabriel has 41 career starts and leads the nation with 12,427 yards passing since the start of the 2019 season.

“He's almost the offensive coordinator at times on the football field,” Campbell said. “Can make all the throws, he's really athletic. Obviously, he's much different this year because he's healthy.”

Oklahoma had struggled defensively in recent years, but the Sooners have allowed their lowest point total (34) through four games since 1992. Venables said it's too early to tell if the change is permanent.

“Will our guys continue to keep their head down and stay focused and driven and hungry and humble? That’s part of it that we don’t know,” he said. “And that story of the transformation is going to constantly be ongoing. But there has been some improvement made.”

Iowa State is coming off a 34-27 win over Oklahoma State. Freshman quarterback Rocco Becht passed for career bests of 348 yards and three touchdowns and become the third Cyclones quarterback to win his first career Big 12 start.

Becht's performance gives Iowa State hope that their otherwise struggling offense could get it going.

“I know we didn't get the results at times the two games prior to (last Saturday), but you saw him just continuing to gain confidence and momentum,” Campbell said.

RUNNING BACK CAROUSEL

Oklahoma has given Tawee Walker, Marcus Major and Jovantae Barnes meaningful shares of the action at running back this season. Walker leads the way with 34 carries for 176 yards. Major has 133 yards and Barnes has 122.

Last year, Eric Gray got much of the work.

“Eric Gray had established himself,” Venables said. “We’d love for somebody to establish themselves. That hasn’t happened yet.”

KICKIN' IT

Iowa State's Chase Contreraz was the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week after making field goals of 51 and 46 yards into the wind against Oklahoma State. He also made all four of his extra four tries. He is one of eight kickers nationally with multiple 50-plus yard field goals this season. His 56-yarder against Northern Iowa is the third-longest nationally this year.

STAR LINEBACKER

Oklahoma's Danny Stutsman has emerged as one of the nation’s best linebackers. He had team highs of 13 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss against Cincinnati. He leads the Big 12 in tackles and ranks second in the league and fourth nationally with eight tackles for loss.

NEW STAR?

Oklahoma receiver Andrel Anthony leads the team with 21 catches and 371 yards. The transfer from Michigan has been the most consistent threat for Gabriel. He had seven catches for 117 yards against Cincinnati.

STEADY TARGET

Iowa State's Jaylin Noel had eight catches for a career-high 146 yards against Oklahoma State. He leads the Big 12 with 6.7 receptions per game and ranks 22nd nationally. He caught 60 passes for 572 yards last season.

___

AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll