NOTEBOOK: Three missed first half picks haunt ISU in 42-41 loss at No. 9 Oklahoma

Nov 9, 2019; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) celebrates with fullback Jeremiah Hall (27) after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter against the Iowa State Cyclones at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

NORMAN, Okla. —  One potential interception eluded Iowa State safety Justin Bickham’s fingertips by inches and ended in a CeeDee Lamb touchdown that put Oklahoma up 7-0 early.

 One went through fellow safety Greg Eisworths hands — and likely would have been a pick six for the Cyclones.

 Yet one more glanced off ISU safety Lawrence White’s outstretched hands — and ended in a 20-yard gain for Oklahoma, which didn’t need one bit of luck in Saturday’s pulse-pounding 42-41 win over ISU, but received some, anyway.

 “Just making the play,” said White, whose late interception stoked the Cyclones’ frantic comeback bid that fell a two-point conversion short. “We had three opportunities, almost four. I dropped one. That’s on me. I know Greg, I know, he’s furious about that. We’ve just got to make plays.”

 The ninth-ranked Sooners (8-1, 5-1 Big 12) rolled up 374 first-half yards and led 35-14 at the break.

 The only breaks ISU (5-4, 3-3) endured in most of the first three quarters were followed by the word “downs,” as every bit of misfortune that’s seemed to plague the program cropped up in Norman.

 One example: With the Cyclones down 28-14 late in the first half and facing a third and 10 situation, an official threw a flag for pass interference. But, after a conference, that flag was picked up and ISU punted.

 Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts then calmly used all but three of the remaining seconds of the half to drive deep into ISU territory — where a flag for interference against the Cyclones’ Anthony Johnson was not picked up.

 Hurts then surged two yards for the touchdown that put the Sooners up by 21.

 Again, Oklahoma didn’t need the help. Hurts rushed for two touchdowns and threw for three more, with two going to Lamb, who racked up six catches for 142 yards in the first 30 minutes.

 ISU’s defense clamped down in the second half, allowing one touchdown and forcing two turnovers — on a fumble forced by Zach Petersen that O’Rien Vance recovered and the key White interception, but it wasn’t enough to fully fuel a comeback win.

 “Obviously a tough loss for us,” Campbell said. “Let me certainly give credit to Oklahoma. (The Sooners) made some great plays in the football game, but I’ll be really honest with you, I’d rather talk about our kids. The courage, the toughness, this team is — I’ve said this before, I’m gonna say it again, it’s one of my most favorite teams I’ve ever coached. I love their resolve. We’re not perfect. I certainly wish we were. I see us continuing to grow in so many ways and I thought our character showed tonight in a lot of ways. Obviously we were a point short, but, boy, I couldn’t be prouder of what our team stands for and I really look forward to watching us get back to work. We’ve got another great challenge come next week.”

 That would be Texas, who survived Saturday against Kansas State at home. There’s still plenty that can be accomplished by the Cyclones, including matching a school record with six conference victories if they can win out, but complete, not partial, efforts will be required for that to remain in the realm of possibility.

 “Just keep believing,” Campbell said of his team. “They’re a group of kids that, you know, you’re a couple points away from maybe some different results, but everybody says, ‘Man, the ball’s gonna bounce your way.’ But that’s not really true. Really, in football, you’ve got to make the ball bounce your way and we started to do that at times in the second half of the football game, which I was really proud of. Not many teams down 21 at half are gonna make the ball bounce their way and we did. We’ve just got to learn from some of the precision and detail things that have snuck up on us in a couple moments. Unfortunately at Iowa State, you’ve got to play four quarters with great detail because we’re just not that team that’s gonna be bale to play three quarters, or two in a half quarters and win football games. Our key to success is four quarters that way and obviously we didn’t do that tonight and it caught us again.”


 Breece Hall rushed 18 times for 110 yards to become the first ISU running back to top 100 yards on the ground against Oklahoma since 1989 (Blaise Bryant). … Brock Purdy tied a single-game program record with five touchdown passes (Todd Bandhauer, Steele Jantz). … The Cyclones’ 41 points are the most they’ve scored in the series with the Sooners. They put up 40 in 1989. … ISU finished plus-two in turnover margin and fell to 15-4 in the Campbell era when winning that category. 


Rob Gray


Rob, an Ames native, joined Cyclone Fanatic in August, 2014 after nearly a decade and a half of working at Iowa's two largest newspapers. He spent 10 years at the Des Moines Register and, after a brief stint in public relations, joined the Cedar Rapids Gazette as an Iowa State correspondent three years ago. Rob specializes in feature stories for CF.

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