Iowa State sits at 1-7 on the season. Making it to a bowl game is 99.9 percent out of the question for the Cyclones. On Thursday night, ISU will have a chance to pull off a major upset against the No. 14 Oklahoma Sooners at home. But first, time for a history lesson.
The last time Iowa State played a weeknight conference game, it was back in 2011 against then-No. 2 Oklahoma State Cowboys.
OSU came into Ames, Iowa, with a perfect 10-0 record. The Cowboys were set to cruise past the overmatched Cyclones and set up a showdown against rival the Oklahoma Sooners for a chance to go to the BCS title game. Early on Iowa State was indeed overwhelmed by Oklahoma State. The Cyclones were down 24-7 to the Cowboys three minutes into the third quarter. Then came the final 25 minutes.
Everything started falling Iowa State’s way. The Cyclones tied the game at 24 apiece with 5:30 left in regulation. The Cowboys had a chance to win the game with 1:17 left, but kicker Quinn Sharp missed the 37-yard field goal wide right. Iowa State upset Oklahoma State in double-overtime by the score of 37-31 and ultimately cost the Cowboys a chance to play in the national championship game against LSU in New Orleans.
Now back to the present day. Entering the game against the Sooners, the Cyclones are a 19.5-point underdog. How can Iowa State quite possibly pull off the upset against Oklahoma? Two things will have to go right for the Cyclones to do so. One: The offense has to be consistent and high powered throughout the entire 60 minutes. Two: The defense must force the Sooners to run the ball.
Iowa State is much better than what its record reflects. Four of the Cyclones’ seven losses have come by one score or less. Three have come against tough Big 12 opponents: Baylor, Oklahoma State and Kansas State.
The reason for Iowa State losing those close games is that its offense wasn’t able to sustain its level of play throughout the entire game.
Against Northern Iowa, Baylor, and Oklahoma State, the offense was rolling early and often. When the Cyclones took on the Panthers, the offense clicked in the first quarter. In the second and third quarters, the Iowa State offense was nowhere to be found. In the last 15 minutes, the unit came back alive but it was too late for the Cyclones.
Against Baylor and Oklahoma State, Iowa State’s offense outperformed the Bears’ and Cowboys’ high-powered units, earning a lead heading into the fourth quarter. The offense couldn’t maintain its winning edge; it sputtered, allowing the Bears and Cowboys to come back and take away victories from under the Cyclones’ nose.
Unlike the previously mentioned three games, Iowa State’s offense took awhile to get going against Kansas State. The Cyclones flourished in the final three quarters, but not the first. That subpar quarter made the difference in a five-point (31-26) loss. In every game, at least one quarter drags down the ISU offense. If the Cyclones can put together four full quarters instead of two or three, they will start winning games in November which they lost in September and October.
Meanwhile, the Cyclone defense will need to force Oklahoma to run the ball instead of passing it.
Heading into the game, the Sooners will be down starting running back Samaje Perine–who is out with a leg injury–and talented backup Joe Mixon–who will be serving a one game suspension. That means freshman Abdul Adams–who has rushed for 215 yards on 41 carries this season–will be the main back come Thursday night.
Over the last five games for Oklahoma, receiver Dede Westbrook has totaled 881 yards and 11 touchdowns. Iowa State will have to try to shut him down and contain the rest of the OU receiver corps if they want a chance to beat the Sooners. The good thing for the Cyclones: Their best defensive unit is their defensive backs.
Since 2008, Iowa State is 6-2 in weeknight games and has won 10 of the last 13 Thursday night games. If the Cyclones want to make the record 7-2 and 11 of the 13, they will have to be consistent and high powered on offense and have a no-fly zone defense come Thursday night against the Sooners.