AMES – Oklahoma is a dynastic juggernaut.
Year in and year out the Sooners are one of the best teams in America. The last time Oklahoma lost more than three games was five years ago in 2014 – a person has to go to 2009 to find the next time.
The last time the Sooners had a losing record was in 1998 – the year before Bob Stoops took over.
In 2019, nothing has changed. Oklahoma is still really, really good and they have yet another Heisman-caliber quarterback in Jalen Hurts.
Hurts has 2,469 passing yards, 869 rushing yards and 34 total touchdowns.
How do you try and defend a player like that?
“That’s a great question,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “I think everybody’s trying to figure that out, to be really honest with you. I think the thing that I’ve got so much respect for Jalen Hurts is, number one, he’s a really good decision maker. Where do you get the ball? When do you get the ball there? Number two, when do you pull the ball down and run? And then number three, this is physical specimen that has this unique ability to make people miss.
“I think truly one of the best runners right now, on top of one of the best quarterbacks in college football. Any time you have those dynamics together, you’re going to get a guy that’s producing the numbers that he is.”
The problem for opposing teams this season is that Oklahoma isn’t just an offensive super team anymore.
The Sooners have a defense thanks to defensive coordinator Alex Grinch.
Oklahoma is fourth in the Big 12 in scoring defense, allowing 23 points per game and is second in the Big 12 in total defense, allowing 339 yards.
“The thing that Alex brings is great energy,” Campbell said. “Alex is young, he has great knowledge of the game and the one thing you see from that defense is boy, there is a sense of energy of flying to the football.
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“That consistency of play through eight football games and shown in the video tape. They have great play makers at key positions defensively and Alex has done a really good job of putting those guys in positions to be really successful.”
Oklahoma does have a chink in its armor. The Sooners lost the last time they played against Kansas State.
The Sooners struggled to stop Kansas State’s rushing attack. The Wildcats rushed for 213 yards and six touchdowns.
Iowa State passed the ball 62 times against Oklahoma State in its last game. If the Cyclones want to duplicate Kansas State’s success, the Cyclones will need to get Breece Hall more involved and they may even need to use quarterback Brock Purdy in the running game again.
Kansas State quarterback Skylar Thompson had four of Kansas State’s six rushing touchdowns.
Defensively, Campbell already touched on it, the Sooners and Hurts are near impossible to stop.
Hurts’ favorite target is receiver CeeDee Lamb. Lamb has the second most receiving yards in the Big 12 with 816 and the most receiving touchdowns with 11.
Sophomore cornerback Anthony Johnson will be tasked with slowing Lamb down.
“In this conference, you must be your best,” Campbell said. “And not even best in terms of just coverability, you’ve got to be able to be physical and tackle. You’ve got to have the ability within our scheme to do a multitude of different things and do them really well at the corner spot. What I’m really proud of is you see Anthony, he just keeps getting better and better. There’s not a drop-off from his freshman year to his sophomore year. You kind of see his production and what he’s doing continue to rise."
“And you talk about his challenge: CeeDee Lamb. To me, it is a little different because when you talk about the best of the best in this conference, his name is certainly the name that certainly everybody would come to say, ‘Boy, this guy is really, really special.’ What I love about Lamb is he’s really competitive. He competes at everything from the punt returner to every ball that gets thrown his way. He’s the guy on the sideline that you can see is kind of ushering the excitement amongst that group.
“I think it’s a tremendous challenge not just for Anthony or any of our corners, but for our football team — knowing where that guy’s at and doing a really good job of trying to be our best against one of the best in the country.”