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Cyclones blow into Norman looking for an upset

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Joel Lanning, one-time quarterback at Iowa State, is now chasing quarterback as one of the Cyclones’ linebackers.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – If third-ranked Oklahoma wants to make a run to win the Big 12 Championship and the playoffs, the Sooners (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) must play with a chip on their shoulders, especially the defense.

OU’s defense was sloppy the last two games, which were against teams that are currently a combined 2-5 this year. Oklahoma gave up 198 yards and 14 points early against Tulane three weeks ago but held the Green Wave to 98 yards and scoreless the rest of the way.

Baylor (0-5) rolled up 523 yards, 463 through the air on OU two weeks ago in Waco. Oklahoma, favored by four touchdowns, held on for a 49-41 victory. Bear’s quarterback Zach Smith torched the Big Red defense for four touchdowns—three of them to Denzel Mims, who consistently blew past Jordan Thomas, the Sooners’ senior cornerback.

But, OU’s defense was without the services of veteran tackle Matt Romar, and safeties Will Johnson and Robert Barnes. Johnson and Barnes had great performances against Ohio State to help the Sooners to a 31-16 upset. Johnson and Barnes are expected back from the injury roster, but Romar is a game-time decision, according to Sooner skipper Lincoln Riley.

The Sooners also will get some help on the line with the return of Amani Bledsoe, who will fit in the rotation at end. The Lawrence, Kansas sophomore was suspended for the first four games of the season after failing an NCAA test for performance-enhancing drugs last fall.

After a week off and rest, the Sooners will entertain Iowa State (2-2, 0-1 Big 12) at 11 a.m. (FOX) Saturday. The Cyclones’ two losses were by a combined 15 points. They lost to Iowa 44-41 in overtime four weeks ago and dropped a 17-7 decision to Texas last week. ISU handily defeated Northern Iowa (42-24) and Akron (41-14), two teams that aren’t very good.

With the Cyclones invading Norman as a four-touchdown underdog, Oklahoma cannot take them lightly, especially with arch-rival Texas waiting in the wings next week.

Iowa State doesn’t beat the Sooners often—only five wins in 81 meetings and the last coming in 1990 in Norman. An upset over OU would be a significant boost to the Cyclones football program, which has lost 20-straight games to ranked opponents.

Quarterback Jacob Park has completed 61.7 percent of his passes for 1,181 yards with 9 TDs and 5 INTs. Receivers Hakeem Butler and Allen Lazard lead the team in receptions. Butler has the most yards (296) on 19 catches, and Lazard leads with 24 grabs for 241 yards. Both have scored three times apiece.

Running back David Montgomery leads the ground game with 355 yards (5.5 per carry) and 4 TDs.

Linebacker Joel Lanning was the Cyclones starting quarterback for the last year-and- a-half, but he lost the job to Park in the spring. So, Lanning switched to the defense where he currently leads ISU with 46 tackles. He also has one interception that set up a touchdown against Akron.

The senior also had a career-high 20 tackles against the Longhorns last week.

Lanning and his pals are going to have their hands full against one of the best offenses in the country. OU quarterback Baker Mayfield is better than ever. He’s completed 75.2 percent of his passes for 13 TDs and no interceptions. Last year, he set the NCAA passing rating and this year he is 32 points ahead of that record.

After Baylor took a 31-28 lead two weeks ago, Mayfield engineered a 75-yard drive and capped it with a 48-yard strike to Jeff Badet. Mayfield completed only 13 of 19 passing, but the Sooners wore down the Bears with a powerful ground game. Running back Abdul Adams had 164 yards on 11 carries. His 99-yard run in the second quarter set a new team record. Jeff Frazier (1995) and Buck McPhail (1951) shared the previous mark with 96-yard runs.

Trey Sermon, who had been on the bench for three periods, took over at running back in the fourth. The freshman was fed the ball 12 times for 150 yards and two scores.

The Sooners’ defense rose to the occasion as they clung to a 49-41 lead with 1:41 remaining in the game and Baylor recovered an onside kick. Linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo sacked Bears quarterback Zach Smith near midfield on a third-down play and forced a fumble. Fellow linebacker Caleb Kelly recovered it to seal the victory for Oklahoma.

Oklahoma leads the nation this season with 9.1 yards per play (the school single-season record is 7.6 in 1971). The Sooners put up 10.6 yards per play against Baylor, and 10.2 against Tulane.

OU boasts one of the best big-play passing attacks so far this year. The Sooners have already completed 29 passes of 20-plus yards, good for a nation-leading 7.3 per game. Conversely, OU has allowed just seven completions of 20 or more yards (1.8 per game). The Sooners are also the only team in the country with two completions (and three plays overall) from scrimmage of at least 80 yards. Oklahoma also leads the nation with 605.5 yards per game and is fourth in scoring (48) and passing (399.8).

The Cyclones are one of the worst teams against the pass (108th) yielding 264 yards per outing. Mayfield should be able to pad his stats this weekend. OU should push their overall winning string to 15 and 18 in the Big 12 Conference. The Sooners must be physical and aggressive on defense. They must continue to keep up the intensity and not look ahead to Texas next week.

“Taking it one week at a time,” Mayfield said at the team’s weekly press conference on Monday.

“…We don’t need any motivation from the outside; it comes from within.

“We’re going to get their (Cyclones) best shot. We’re going to get everybody’s best shot.”

Fast Facts

*OU leads the series, 74-5- 2, including 18 straight victories.

*OU leads the series, 38-3- 1 in Norman including nine straight wins.

*The average score of the last six meetings in Norman (which happens to be the Bob Stoops era)

was 43-7.

*Riley’s Record: 4-0 (1.000) overall; 2-0 at home; 1-0 vs. Big 12 opponents.

*ISU coach Matt Campbell’s record: 38-24 (.613) overall; at ISU 5-11 (.312); 0-1 vs. OU; 1-5 on

the road; 3-10 vs. Big 12 foes.

*OU is 9-3 in games played on October 7.

*ISU is 7-7 in games played on October 7.

*Both teams split the only meeting on October—ISU won 21-15 in 1961 and OU won 39026 in

1995.

*ISU is one of eight teams in the nation yet to lose a fumble this season.

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About the Author

Ray Dozier

Ray Dozier is the author of Legends of Oklahoma Sooners Football and two editions of The...

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