AMES, Iowa — Whether it was by choice or just plain necessity, Oklahoma used its second week off for a makeover. What emerged Saturday against Iowa State looked a lot more like the team that ended the 2013 season and rolled through the first month of this one.
Dominant was how the 19th-ranked Sooners looked, acted and played in a 59-14 rout of the Cyclones at Trice Stadium.
“It was one of those games we needed. A confidence builder after three tough games there in October with the two losses, and not our best performance at the Cotton Bowl,” OU quarterback Trevor Knight said. “This is what we needed, to come out and have a big team win.”
The win was expected. The Cyclones (2-6, 0-5) are struggling. The loss was their fourth in the last five games. But they’d been competitive until Saturday. They lost on a last-second field goal at Texas two weeks ago and took Kansas State down to the wire earlier this season.
But OU dominated this game from the opening kickoff and kept pouring it on without mercy.
The Sooners amassed 751 yards of total offense with 510 coming on the ground. Anything it attempted succeeded or at least came very close.
Knight rushed for 146 yards, Alex Ross added 144 yards and Samaje Perine put together a 110-yard afternoon.
OU has a history of pounding the Cyclones with the run game. It rushed for over 400 against them last season and seemed bent on doing it again on Saturday.
They ran a lot of plays with three running backs on the field.
“Some of it was in the way they deploy their defense. The way we executed and the way we blocked and the way they defended the formations that we were giving them,” Stoops said.
OU ran a season-high 102 plays, losing yards on two of them, while piling up 40 first-downs.
But the biggest difference between the Sooners’ Saturday version and the one from the previous four games was the Sooners’ play from the start.
They grabbed a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and scored touchdowns on five of its first seven possessions.
Outside of an 18-yard touchdown run by quarterback Sam Richardson early in the second quarter, the Cyclones went nowhere.
“It always feels good to get up on guys and not get too comfortable,” linebacker Eric Striker said. “We have that security of 21-0 and getting those three-and-outs is important for us. We just have to continue to do that and keep getting better at it.”
The Sooners did that to teams early in the season. Back when it was national title contender and presumptive favorite to win the Big 12. That ability to overwhelm teams disappeared with slow starts in the first four conference games.
What was most surprising was OU did it without it’s most explosive player. Wide receiver Sterling Shepard, who entered the game averaging 18.6 yards per catch, started off with a 46-yard bomb to start the game before being carted off the field with a groin injury.
“Fortunately, we were able to run the ball,” OU coach Bob Stoops said.
Even the players didn’t get a full grasp of how well the Sooners were doing until late in the fourth quarter. They knew it was a special day when Perine came out the game early in the fourth quarter. His last carry put all three backs over 100 yards.
Then, receivers coach Jay Norvell said on the sideline midway through the fourth quarter that 500 rushing yards was well within reach.
“The backup guys, we were trying to motivate them. We only needed 18 yards at that point. It’s a cool thing,” left tackle Daryl Williams said.
The performance lifted OU to 6-2 overall and 3-2 in the Big 12. It also left the game with serious momentum for the first time since the victory over West Virginia back in September.
There was a bravado present on Saturday that was absent in the losses to TCU and Kansas State and the less-than-stellar performance in the win over Texas.
“You feel good after a win like this,” cornerback Zack Sanchez said. The way we played offensively and defensively, picking it up after the past few weeks that we’ve had. It’s just a big game for momentum and we hope to keep that rolling into next week and throughout the season.”
The Sooners host Baylor (7-1, 4-1) at 11 a.m. Saturday at Owen Field. In late September, the game was pegged as the conference game of the year. Mainly because the Sooners and Bears looked like the two best teams.
The game won’t have that kind of importance. OU’s two losses removed that. But, OU played like the league’s best team on Saturday.
“You feel like you’ve made some progress in how you executed today and we’ve got to build on it and keep improving,” Stoops said.