If you missed Iowa State's 37-30 win over No. 18 Oklahoma, one word could summarize most of the action on Saturday: Penalties.
Penalties, penalties and more penalties crept around every corner for Iowa State, stalling momentum-changing drives from start to finish.
Iowa State finished with nine penalties worth 90 yards, just barely getting the edge on the Sooners' nine penalties for 93 yards. And the sloppy play was uncharacteristic of the Cyclones up to Saturday's game.
The Cyclones came in as the 6th best team in the country in terms of penalties per game, sitting at at 24.5 penalty yards per game coming into Saturday. The next closest Big 12 team was Kansas who was ranked No. 40 nationally with 57.5 penalty yards per game.
For Iowa State Head Coach Matt Campbell, a win is good and all, but the penalties and costly mistakes have to be cleaned up in order for the program to reach the heights it wants. Facing a team like Oklahoma, no matter the national rankings or win-loss-record, Campbell said the elite teams in the college football world demand precision from themselves. It's something Iowa State is still looking for according to Campbell.
Iowa State finishes a play.Penalties: pic.twitter.com/srncwiknVt— Matt Belinson (@BelinsonMatt) October 4, 2020
“We know how to play 60 minutes, our problem is we don’t know how to play 60 minutes with great precision yet and until we can get close to that, we’re going to live in this world where it’s hard to win football games this way,” Campbell said.
In the 2019 comeback attempt against the Sooners in Norman, Oklahoma, Iowa State had 11 penalties for 84 yards, and although the two games ended with very different outcomes, similar themes of leaving plays out on the field came to pass for Iowa State.
The mistakes and penalties may be brushed to side by some who want to take the win and celebrate, but not Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy.
Through three quarters, it was mostly a field goal show by the Iowa State offense, with holding calls and illegal shifts by the offense playing big roles in taking away big plays. Whether it be an illegal formation penalty that wiped away a 31 yard run from Kene Nwangwu or holding calls that stalled opportunities to score touchdowns on the Sooners' side of the field, the offense seemed to be stuck once again hurting itself more than putting points on the board.
Purdy said the offense came together throughout the game to remind each other to stay disciplined and not make unforced mistakes. And when Oklahoma is the opponent, the constant mistakes make even a 37-30 win a downer in some way for Purdy.
“To sit here and say we’re happy with how we played, I don’t think we can say that," Purdy said. “[...] When we are playing teams down the road, we want to be able to not shoot ourselves in the foot with penalties."
The Cyclones had the momentum with a 1:18 left in the third quarter, with the offense finally getting a big score on a 65 yard touchdown pass from Purdy to Xavier Hutchinson. And then the Cyclones got in their own way it seemed.
Right after touchdown, the defense for Iowa State capitalized on the energy of the crowd, with Aric Horne sacking Spencer Rattler for an eight yard loss. On the ensuing play Iowa State's Gerry Vaughn got called for a late hit on Rattler to the tune of roughing the passer and an eventual targeting call. Vaughn would be ejected after review.
All in all, the drive ended with a field goal, something Oklahoma and Iowa State got family with seeing all game, but for Campbell and his team, the close calls have to be put to an end if the Cyclones want to become great. Even in wins like this.
“Yeah it’s great to get the win but there’s so much more out there for this team to become the best version of itself it can be and we’re going to keep fighting for it," Campbell said.