Oklahoma takes care of Iowa State
With an assist from Mother Nature, No. 12 Oklahoma got its defense back in order and set up a Bedlam showdown for the Big 12 championship.
Landry Jones threw for 256 yards, Blake Bell punched in two short touchdown runs and the Sooners limited Iowa State to a season-low 245 yards in a 26-6 victory on Saturday.
Rebounding after allowing a school-record 616 yards allowed last week in a 45-38 loss at Baylor, Oklahoma only let the Cyclones (6-5, 3-5 Big 12) score after James Winchester’s snap sailed over the head of punter Tress Way in the first quarter.
Oklahoma will visit No. 4 Oklahoma State – with the nation’s second-highest scoring offense – next week with the winner earning the Big 12 title.
”We’ve got a bigger challenge in front of us. Maybe we aren’t on a national championship run but we do have a shot at the Big 12,” nickel back Tony Jefferson said.
”We knew that this whole week and we knew we had to persevere and fight through all that.”
Trey Franks finished with 88 yards rushing on two long reverses to set up scores for the Sooners (9-2, 6-2), and Michael Hunnicutt matched his career-high with four field goals on a difficult day for offense.
Each team turned it over four times in a game played in front of thousands of empty seats at sold-out Owen Field, with sustained winds of over 30 mph and gusting to more than 40 mph. The game-time winds were the strongest in Norman since a 1964 loss against Southern California.
”Obviously there’s plays out there that were left on the field. I didn’t play very well today but I played good enough to win a game,” said Jones, who threw two interceptions and went without a touchdown pass for the second straight game.
”The weather was tough, but you’ve got to overcome things in this game.”
The Cyclones didn’t sustain a drive of longer than 35 yards and got their only points on Jared Barnett’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Albert Gary one play after Oklahoma’s botched punt. They were shut out the rest of the way, failing in their chance to pull off another monumental upset eight days after the biggest win in school history – over then-No. 2 Oklahoma State.
Iowa State hasn’t beaten ranked opponents in back-to-back weeks since 1974 and was trying to win for just the sixth time in 76 meetings with Oklahoma all time.
”You can’t turn the ball over like we did and stall so many long drives,” coach Paul Rhoads said. ”At some point, you have to find success and get the ball in the end zone and give your whole football team an energy that gives you a chance to win the football game.”
The Sooners were able to find enough offense to win it. Bell scored on a 3-yard run and a 1-yarder, and Oklahoma settled for field goals on four other red zone possessions.
After being practically unstoppable in the scoring zone a week ago at Baylor, Bell ran into trouble early on against the Cyclones. He was stuffed on Oklahoma’s first red zone possession, leading to Hunnicutt’s 20-yard field goal, and then threw an interception to Jake Knott the next time.
But the Sooners kept going back to their third-string quarterback, who last week joined J.C. Watts and Jamelle Holieway as the only quarterbacks in the program’s history with four rushing TDs in a game. He scored on a 3-yard keeper in the second quarter to give Oklahoma the lead to stay, then smashed his way into the end zone from a yard out on the next possession to make it 17-6.
Hunnicutt added field goals from 28 and 36 yards to push the halftime lead to 23-6, and he provided the only points of the second half on a 21-yarder. Franks set it up with a 45-yard reverse, getting tackled at the 1-yard line before the Sooners’ goal line offense got stuffed.
Oklahoma was able to compile 509 yards of offense, including 253 on the ground – a total brought down by a 35-yard loss on the errant punt snap. That was plenty with the defense back on its game and the conditions making the type deep balls that hurt the Sooners last week tough to complete.
”It’s good to see them smile,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said. ”It’s been obviously a tough week after an emotional loss last week. But that being said, still to have a Big 12 championship to play for and really kind of having to play with everything on the line this week in order to have a chance at it next week, obviously you’re really happy for them.”
To claim an eighth Big 12 title, the Sooners will have to go on the road and win their ninth straight Bedlam rivalry game.
”We’re a bunch that has been over there plenty of times and understand the challenge of it, respect the challenge of it but I believe our team is also excited about it,” coach Bob Stoops said.
”They know it’s a one-game season with the chance for the Big 12 championship. That’s where you want to be.”
Barnett finished with 125 yards on 13-for-28 passing with one interception, losing for the first time in four career starts. He also fumbled a first-quarter handoff to James White, after White had already fumbled on his first carry of the game.
The Cyclones also turned it over when linebacker Jevohn Miller muffed a kickoff that was blown around by the wind, leading to Hunnicutt’s third field goal of the opening half.
Iowa State had its lowest yardage output since being held to 183 in a 52-0 shutout at Oklahoma last season.
”We didn’t get pushed around like we did the last time we were here in Norman and that’s continued signs of development in the Iowa State football program,” Rhoads said.