One hell of a football game took place Saturday night at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
A wild comeback from Iowa State fell one play short, as a interception on a two-point conversion attempt was the difference in a 42-41 barnburner win for No. 9 Oklahoma. The loss was the Cyclones' third of two points or less this season and their fourth in five games dating back to last season's 28-26 loss in the Alamo Bowl to Washington State.
The Cyclones trailed 42-21 after three quarters and had their backs against the wall. Three touchdowns and two forced Oklahoma turnovers later, the Cyclones had a chance to go for a second-straight road win against the Sooners or go to overtime. Matt Campbell and the Cyclones chose to go for the win.
The ball didn't fall Iowa State's way.
Let's try to unpack everything that went down in Norman — starting with the Sooners' star of the night.
CeeDee Lamb is ridiculous
Sooners are gonna be up 28-7 and CeeDee Lamb is the most ridiculous receiver I've seen in person— noah (@noahrohlfing) November 10, 2019
The junior wide receiver has made his name this season with his dynamic catching ability and gamebreaking speed. Saturday night was no exception, as Lamb went for 167 yards and two touchdowns on eight receptions against the Cyclones. The first score of the game came from Lamb, as he high-pointed a pass from Jalen Hurts and scored from 48 yards out.
But his second touchdown was the most impressive of the night. Lamb caught a pass on the left sideline at around midfield and made Iowa State's defense look silly, zig-zagging all the way to the right sideline and speeding to the end zone. At the time, it felt like a dagger, as the Cyclones went up 28-7.
Lamb now has five career games with more than 160 receiving yards.
Iowa State's tackling issues
The Cyclones will rue the three missed interceptions in the first half when looking back on this loss, but the Cyclones did themselves no favors with their tackling.
Oklahoma is known as a big-play offense, and nothing changed Saturday — the Sooners had three touchdowns of 40-plus yards. In multiple plays the Cyclones had a chance to stop the Sooners' offense for a short gain but were instead left grasping air.
Campbell didn't put too much blame on his players after the game.
"They're as elite as elite can get in terms of athleticism," Campbell said.
But the Cyclones routinely allowed the Sooners to turn small-yardage plays into momentum-changing plays.
Iowa State’s hanging on to interceptions like Kevin Malone hangs on to pots of chili.— Trevor Holbrook (@TrevorHolbrook) November 10, 2019
Safety Lawrence White — who picked off Hurts in the fourth quarter to give the Cyclones a chance to score late — said it has to be a team effort to shore up those mistakes.
"We always wanna try to get better at tackling," White said. "We can't afford to miss tackles like that and let their play extend; it really hurts us."
This is the second straight game in which big plays and missed tackles have ultimately hurt the Cyclones' chances of winning — Oklahoma State scored three 50-plus yard touchdowns in its 34-27 win over Iowa State two weekends ago — a concerning trend heading into the season's final three games.
The final play
Campbell showed no hesitation when signaling to the sideline referee that he was planning on going for two after Kolar's late touchdown.
He said the play consisted of multiple dig routes — one for Kolar over the middle of the field and a deeper one for La'Michael Pettway, whom Purdy eventually targeted with the ill-fated pass. Kolar came open right before Purdy's throw, but he said the pressure from Oklahoma forced him to throw early.
Kolar placed no blame on Purdy for the final play's failure.
Charlie Kolar on Brock Purdy: “I would go to war with that kid any day of the week”— Zane Douglas (@zdouglas27) November 10, 2019
"The character that kid has," Kolar said, choking up. "It's like nothing I've ever seen before."
There were questions about whether a pass interference penalty should have been called on the cornerback covering Pettway, but Campbell didn't want to say anything.
"No, no, no, no. No. No. No," Campbell said.
Breece Hall impresses again
Iowa State's offense was laboring in the first half, struggling to convert opportunities against a beleaguered Oklahoma defense and searching for answers.
In the second half, freshman running back Breece Hall's play was a big reason the Cyclones were able to get into a groove and chip away at the Sooners' lead.
Hall had 110 yards on 18 carries and brought in four receptions for 33 yards. Hall now sits second all-time in Iowa State history for freshman rushing yards with 585.
Quarterback Brock Purdy said Hall has been instrumental in the Cyclones' success offensively.
"Breece is making amazing plays every single week now," Purdy said. "For him to break tackles [and] spin moves when a play is not there at first, that's huge, and it keeps our drives alive."
Penalty problems and the margins
Campbell harps on Iowa State's need to win games in the margins by playing clean, complete football for four quarters.
The Cyclones did not follow through on Saturday, with penalties galore — 11 for 84 total yards — halting momentum on multiple Iowa State drives.
The penalties ultimately weren't the reason Iowa State fell short against the Sooners, but it was indicative of Campbell's assertions about his team.
"I thought our character showed tonight in a lot of ways," Campbell said. "Obviously, we were a point short, but I couldn't be prouder of what this team stands for."