Oklahoma may have found its defensive swagger once again. After the bye week, Oklahoma made the trip to Ames, Iowa to take on Matt Campbell’s Iowa State Cyclones. The Cyclones entered the game 10th nationally in yards per rush allowed and were sixth in the nation in points allowed per game at 15.5. They also feature Will McDonald, one of Iowa State’s all-time best at rushing the passer.
Oklahoma beat the Cyclones 27-13 behind a fairly complementary performance in all three phases.
Eric Gray contributed 101 yards on the ground and a touchdown. The defense tallied three interceptions of Iowa State QB Hunter Dekkers. Lastly, Zach Schmit and Michael Turk provided the impact on special teams to put the Sooners over the top. Schmit scored on a fake field goal pass and nailed two field goal attempts, while Michael Turk chipped in two 60-yard punts to flip the field in the fourth quarter, including one that pinned the Cyclones at the one on the drive following a score that made it 20-13.
The game was sloppy at times, and there are some things to take issue with. However, a conference win on the road considering the season Oklahoma has had, is nothing to scoff at. With such a complementary and tough win, we want to share our five takeaways from the Oklahoma win before Oklahoma starts to prepare for a home game against Baylor.
Defense shows signs of improvement
Oct 29, 2022; Ames, Iowa, USA; Iowa State Cyclones running back Jirehl Brock (21) is tackled by Oklahoma Sooners defensive back Trey Morrison (6) after making a first down during the first quarter in the Big 12 Conference game at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune-USA TODAY Sports
We’ll be the first people to acknowledge Iowa State isn’t some offensive powerhouse. There’s really no need to debate that. However, Oklahoma’s defense was a mess for a month, and the performance on the road was a much more defendable product than what we had seen. Going on the road in the conference and holding the home team to 13 points is hat-tip-worthy.
Interceptions by Woodi Washington, Danny Stutsman, and Juston Broiles led the way in the turnover department for Oklahoma, while Oklahoma’s run defense held Iowa State to just 66 yards. It forced Dekkers to throw the ball 57 times which is absolutely not a plan for success for Iowa State.
Oklahoma struggled to get off the field in some notable third and fourth and long situations, but other than those, this was a workman-like performance from the Sooners’ defense. They competed and looked as confident in the scheme as they’ve been since the win over Nebraska.
It’s a significant building block going forward.
Woodi Washington had his best game of the season
Oct 29, 2022; Ames, Iowa, USA; Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Woodi Washington (0) intercepts the ball over Iowa State Cyclones wide receiver Dimitri Stanley (14) during the first quarter in the Big 12 Conference game at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune-USA TODAY Sports
If we’re heaping on praise for the defense’s performance, we have to give praise to one of the best individual performances. Woodi Washington played pretty sticky coverage all game and walked away with an interception as well.
After some shaky performances in the past month, Washington came up big when called upon and helped put a nail in Iowa State’s coffin with some great technique on a fourth down near the goalline late in the 4th quarter.
The Sooners can win ugly
Oct 29, 2022; Ames, Iowa, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Dillon Gabriel (8) slides after making a first down around Iowa State Cyclones defensive back Mason Chambers (0) during the second quarter in the Big 12 Conference game at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune-USA TODAY Sports
While the defense did its best, Oklahoma’s offense failed to sustain drives for any significant period of time. Gabriel couldn’t eclipse 200 yards passing and only had one touchdown pass, which went to sophomore Jalil Farooq for 41 yards.
Marvin Mims had three brutal drops that he’ll be kicking himself about. He just looked very out of it from the opening drive. Farooq picked up the slack, leading the way with four catches and 74 yards, and a touchdown. Drake Stoops chipped in 3 catches for 34 yards, and the Sooners got great contributions from the special teams with 13 points by Zach Schmit. Schmit provided Oklahoma’s first touchdown on the game on a fake field goal, catching a toss from punter and holder Michael Turk for a touchdown.
The Sooners totaled just 332 yards which is a stark comparison to the 700 yards they put up against the Kansas Jayhawks. Ultimately, the only stat that mattered was the win.
DaShaun White on the prowl
AMES, IA – OCTOBER 29: linebacker DaShaun White #23, and defensive lineman Gracen Halton #56 of the Oklahoma Sooners tackle running back Cartevious Norton #5 of the Iowa State Cyclones as he rushed for yards in the second half of play at Jack Trice Stadium on October 29, 2022 in Ames, Iowa. The Oklahoma Sooners won 27-13 over the Iowa State Cyclones. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
In the win, it became apparent that DaShaun White has figured out the nuances of being the Cheetah this defense needs. He looked in place for his drops in coverage and used good technique throughout the game. He also was a force in the run game and ultimately led all tacklers with 14 total tackles. 10 of them were solo endeavors. Add in a tackle for loss and that’s one heck of a day at the office.
We don’t know who will take up the position next year but DaShaun White is providing valuable teach tape for whoever comes after him.
Brent Venables isn't afraid to push the button
AMES, IA – OCTOBER 29: Head coach Brent Venables of the Oklahoma Sooners coaches from the sidelines in the second half of play against the Iowa State Cyclones at Jack Trice Stadium on October 29, 2022 in Ames, Iowa. The Oklahoma Sooners won 27-13 over the Iowa State Cyclones. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
At face value, Oklahoma’s fake field goal attempt was a nice play at the right time to catch an opponent sleeping. It’s also indicative of a coach that knows when to push the buttons and be aggressive.
Oklahoma had struggled to get in the end zone on a few drives prior, but Brent Venables and his staff gave the green light for the fake field goal attempt.
It worked like a charm, and that’s the type of week-to-week decision-making that steals points or possessions for your team. When you have a team that is far from perfect, those extra opportunities are pivotal.
Ultimately, it’s the mark of a good coach who has a real feel for the game to know when things like that need to be used to give his team an extra boost. At this point, developing as a head coach is every bit as pivotal as the players taking steps on the field. Both are Venables’ responsibility and it looks as if it’s taking place before our very eyes.
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