NORMAN — Turning on the video from Oklahoma’s Oct. 3 loss to Iowa State, Alex Grinch doesn’t struggle to identify the issues.
His choice for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Isaiah Thomas, doesn’t either.
Two months and some change ago, the Sooners fell 37-30 to the Cyclones. It was their second loss in as many weeks and the last time OU would crumble in the regular season.
The Sooners, ranked 10th in the latest College Football Playoff poll, gets a second chance at Iowa State at 11 a.m. today. A Big 12 championship, along with redemption, is up for grabs.
The Sooners (7-2, 6-2 Big 12) are decidedly a different team than they were in Ames, Iowa.
Perhaps the most glaring difference is the addition of running back Rhamondre Stevenson and defensive end Ronnie Perkins, both of whom sat out the Iowa State game due to suspension. But the Sooners’ maturity also had nowhere to go but up, and the same can be said for their confidence.
“One thing that jumped out to me from the last time we played them is the mistakes we made,” said Thomas, the Sooner defensive lineman with eight sacks. “In my opinion, we beat ourselves. … What we’re doing now is definitely a lot better than what we’ve done in the past. For me, myself, I’m playing a lot faster. I’m definitely more confident in what I do.”
The culmination of OU’s growth and confidence is a sixth straight Big 12 championship game berth. But how exactly has OU improved since its trip to Jack Trice Stadium?
OU surrendered 30 points per game in its first four outings. It’s allowed opponents to score 15.6 points on average in its last five.
During those first four games, redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler threw five interceptions. In the Sooners’ next five, he threw two.
The Sooners rushing attack has its best option in Stevenson. and the defensive line has Perkins to elevate the already strong efforts from Perrion Winfrey, Thomas and Nik Bonitto.
All improvements aside, it doesn’t make it any easier on Grinch, who’s quick to fall on the sword, to revisit OU’s shortcomings.
The Sooners’ game against Iowa State didn’t play a major role in how they planned for today. The game was too long ago to read too much into it.
Sure, there’s a few things that OU can still take from that defeat. But looking at it now, Grinch sees a team that lost in every way it could.
“What I see, specific to me, we got out-coached,” Grinch said. “We got out-played in every facet from the pass game, run game, penalties, production, turnovers.
“Thankfully, it was a couple of months ago and you say you’ve moved on from it, and thankfully we did because that’s the appropriate thing to do.”
As OU’s steadily gotten better, so has Iowa State.
Iowa State had its own setbacks to Louisiana and Oklahoma State, both of which are in the College Football Playoff rankings. The Cyclones might be higher than No. 6 if they didn’t slip up twice.
Iowa State finished the regular season second in the Big 12 for scoring defense, second in rushing offense and defense and third in total defense.
Since losing to Oklahoma State on Oct. 24, Iowa State is scoring 40 points per game and allowing 15.8 points.
So, with both teams rolling and on a collision course to AT&T Stadium Grinch just hopes two months from now he isn’t looking back at OU’s second game with Iowa State the same way he looks back on the first.
“What stands out on film is myself, in particular, being out-coached,” Grinch said. “So, you understand the challenge for Saturday is to ensure you don’t say that Saturday afternoon.”