Is Oklahoma still the top team in the Big 12? After winning the last five conference titles, this assumption is no longer so certain after the No. 18 Sooners fell 37-30 to Iowa State on Saturday night in Ames, Iowa. The loss is a rarity for Oklahoma, which falls to 1-2 overall and 0-2 in Big 12 play. The last time this program lost more than one regular-season game was in 2016, and the last time it lost back-to-back regular-season games was Bob Stoops' first year in 1999.
Extrapolating the historic nature of this loss further, the last time Oklahoma dropped consecutive Big 12 league games was in 1998, John Blake's final season. It also marks Iowa State's first victory over Oklahoma in Ames since 1960; the Sooners had won 24 straight in the Cyclones' home stadium.
Indeed, these are unfamiliar times for the Sooners. But how they got here is not by some fluke or bad break. For as successful as coach Lincoln Riley has been with OU, he's 4-4 against Iowa State and Kansas State.
As a head coach Lincoln Riley is 4-4 vs. Iowa State and K-State and 23-1 vs. the rest of the Big 12.— Matt Hinton (@MattRHinton) October 4, 2020
To wit, many of the same weaknesses that plagued Oklahoma against Kansas State showed up again at Iowa State. For one, the defense continues to be a liability. Iowa State gained 414 yards at just under 6 yards per play. That's good, but even the stat sheet doesn't tell the whole story. Oklahoma's tackling remains a huge problem. Plays that should have been stopped behind the line of scrimmage instead went for positive yards. Modest gains became huge gains. Some became touchdowns.
Oklahoma had no answer for two of Iowa State's offensive stars: running back Breece Hall and tight end Charlie Kolar. Even though he was banged up, Hall was a workhorse with 28 carries for 139 yards and two touchdowns, including the key go-ahead score in the fourth quarter. Kolar was a matchup nightmare the entire game. His four catches for 66 yards are only part of the story as he repeatedly drew defensive pass interference calls and commanded attention that opened up space for other players.
While Oklahoma did get one takeaway in the form of a Brock Purdy fumble, the reality is the defense had opportunities to create more takeaways.
Offensively, Oklahoma wasn't as explosive as we've come to know them to be. Quarterback Spencer Rattler was pressured with two sacks and three more quarterback hurries. And again, the Sooners struggled to run the ball consistently with 3.5 yards per attempt and no runs longer than 17 yards. The Sooners' offensive line has low-key been a staple of this offense over the past few years. Through the last two games, this does not appear to be as dominant a unit as it's been in the past.
Uncertainty appears to be a problem, too. Especially with Rattler. He's elusive but not the most gifted runner. That indecisiveness resulted in Iowa State's swarming defense keeping him under wraps when he did leave the pocket.
This is a massive win for Iowa State, which has rebounded well since losing its opening game to Louisiana. Oklahoma, meanwhile, finds itself doing a bit of soul searching as it tries to get back to the Big 12 Championship Game.