AMES, Iowa – After a middling offensive performance against Iowa a week ago, Iowa State (0-2, 0-1 Big 12) found its offensive stride against No. 5 Oklahoma (3-0, 1-0 Big 12) with backup quarterback Zeb Noland. But big plays, and timely plays, from the Sooners proved to be the difference.
Oklahoma beat Iowa State 37-27 on Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium.
Oklahoma had a 75-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and Oklahoma receiver Marquise Brown had 189 yards in the first half. Oklahoma also converted four of five third down conversions.
After the first quarter, Iowa State played Oklahoma even, each team scoring 27 points. Iowa State held Oklahoma to 165 yards of total offense and the Sooners only converted two of six third down opportunities.
“We were right there the whole game, to be honest with you,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “We couldn’t make that play and we couldn’t get that stop. At the end of it, that was the difference. My goodness, I think we had it down to a one-possession game late in the fourth quarter with a chance to go win the game.
“To me, that’s the difference and that’s where we are growing to. But, I think it’s early in the season, and I think the growth we were able to make was exactly what this team needed.”
Overall, Campbell was quite happy with his team. He’s aware there are areas that still need improvement – tackling, the offensive line and some special teams are the three biggest areas of growth that still need to happen.
But the growth of the offensive line was the thing Campbell was most pleased with. He inserted redshirt freshman Colin Newell at center and bumped Julian Good-Jones to left tackle.
The reimagined line gave holes for running back David Montgomery to run through and enough protection for quarterback Zeb Noland to find Iowa State’s playmakers on the outside.
“I thought immensely better,” Campbell said. “That’s what an offensive line actually looks like compared to what last week looked like. We’re trending in the right direction that way. I thought we were physical at times – I thought there was a lot of growth there. It’s good to see Good-Jones on the outside, and how about Colin Newell in his first start playing against Oklahoma? I thought he did a really good job.”
Campbell’s ego isn’t too big to admit he made a mistake last week by not starting Newell at center.
“I think where we’re getting to is finding what gives us the best opportunity to be successful,” Campbell said. “I think last week Mike Rose stepped into his opportunity. This week, Colin Newell steps into the very same arena and same opportunity. Sometimes, even me, has to trust that what your eyes see in practice and what (with) consistency that those guys do, you’ve got to let them get out on the field and you’ve got to let them play.
“I’ll take last week as my fault that maybe I didn’t let Colin get out there soon enough.”
Noland had nothing but praise for the line’s work.
“I think it was all in the preparation,” Noland said. “They worked extremely hard. Coach (Jeff) Myers challenged them and I couldn’t be more thankful for those guys today. I know David (Montgomery) probably feels the same way.”
Noland’s right, Montgomery was thankful for actually getting a few holes to run through. Montgomery rushed for 82 yards and one touchdown.
“(Their growth) was amazing,” Montgomery said. “I spent a lot of time with my O-line this week. I was seeing what they see and we were able to throw ideas off of each other. It’s definitely been great. Having my O-line play the way they did, it definitely gives me a lot more confidence.”
The offensive line was the biggest area of growth from Iowa State’s first week to the second. There were other areas the Cyclones improved in, too. But Campbell knows there is still room for improvement.
“Everybody wants wins, but all I care about is do we get better one week at a time?” Campbell said. “Do we get better one day at a time? At Iowa State, for us to get where we want to go, that’s the only way. And for me, I’m proud of the improvement.
“I know there’s a lot of improvement that must get made if we’re going win games like that and we’re going to have continued opportunities. So, to me, it’s like I told our kids, ‘We’ve just got to keep plugging away. We’ve got to keep pounding — and if we do it, we’ll get where we need to be.’”