The Sooners nearly lost their second game of the year at the hands of Iowa State, who took full advantage of an Oklahoma team that surrendered a 21-point lead and gave the Cyclones nearly every chance to steal a win in Norman, Okla.
The Sooners lucked out for two reasons: a gamble by Iowa State and a gift from the referees, both of which happened on the final play of Iowa State’s final drive. We’ll get into both later. Let’s talk about everything that came before that play first.
Iowa State’s final drive was merely the tip of Oklahoma’s poor second half. But it’s important to note because it’s proof that, if the Sooners made the College Football Playoff, they’d make an all-too-familiar early exit.
Let’s also remember that Iowa State’s final drive was allowed to exist because Oklahoma offense couldn’t move the ball to drain clock and quarterback Jalen Hurts couldn’t throw the ball away on third-down. Instead, he tried to squeeze a sideline pass into a high-traffic area and turned the ball over with an interception.
The Sooners defense got breaks early. They pressured Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy resulting in a mere two-yard gain and then Iowa State jumped into a false start penalty. Then a tipped pass fell incomplete putting Iowa State in third-and-long. The Sooners were in prime position to put this away.
Then the wheels came off.
Oklahoma sent four rushers and played Cover 1 man with the second safety seemingly on Purdy to prevent what eventually came to be: a first-down scramble. As the big quarterback came toward him, Pat Shields took a poor angle and completely whiffed on the tackle after Purdy took a Peyton Manning-esque cut to shake the defender loose and get the first down.
Then Purdy hits a 16-yard pass to his tight end Charlie Kollar to put the Cyclones in a first-and-goal look with less than a minute to play.
On the ensuing play, another break for the Sooners. An unaware Purdy receives the snap in his gut as he looked to the sidelines and fell on the loose ball to put the Cyclones outside the 10-yard line. Then an incomplete pass.
Iowa State packed a trio of receivers on the outside shoulder of the right tackle, with a receiver on either side of the field. Oklahoma matched and again went with man-protection.
Purdy hit Collar with a high pass where only his 6-foot-6 tight end could grab it against Fields. Touchdown.
On the two-point conversion attempt, Iowa State went with 11-personnel. La’Michael Pettway, lined up as the lone receiver on the left side, took a slant inside before breaking back outside to the back-left corner of the end-zone.
Iowa State’s running back ran a swing to possibly set up the screen and take corner Parnell Motley off Pettway. While the pick didn’t work completely, it did cause Motley to slip behind Pettway and put him off-balance.
As Purdy threw the ball, Motley tried to prevent the connection but made contact with Pettway, grabbing him near the collar in the process, which helped break up the completion and give him the game-saving interception.
Oklahoma was bailed out because of two factors in this game: 1) Iowa State’s decision to go for the win rather than the tying PAT, which would have sent the game into overtime barring a last-second touchdown from Oklahoma (doubtful based on their previous second half drives) and 2) The no-call on the clear pass-interference.
Iowa State’s passing game was unstoppable on the final drive and I would argue it would have been the difference-maker in an overtime battle. In fact, it was nearly the difference-maker on what would have been the game-winning 2-point attempt.
The referees missed a huge penalty and bailed the Sooners out, inadvertently keeping their playoff hopes alive. Oklahoma is No. 10 because of this no-call.