OSU-Iowa State: Cowboys meet their match with struggling Cyclones

OSU-Iowa State: Cowboys meet their match with struggling Cyclones

Maybe it’s a good thing for the Cowboys they don’t carry an undefeated record or College Football Playoff caliber record into Ames. That place is unkind to exceptional OSU teams.

Ben Hutchens

By Ben Hutchens

| Sep 22, 2023, 9:56am CDT

Ben Hutchens

By Ben Hutchens

Sep 22, 2023, 9:56am CDT

STILLWATER — Things tend to get weird when the Cowboys travel to Ames, but why?

OSU coach Mike Gundy toss offered some possibilities this week. The turf at Jack Trice Stadium is long, natural grass. Football weather there gets chilly early. Iowa State used to be the longest flight on the travel schedule. 

And then there’s gamedays.

“One thing about (Iowa State), you could look at their history, 25 years, whatever, they have had a lot of tough years and they still sell out and have had a hell of a gameday atmosphere,” Gundy said. “We’ve been up there early for a game before and they do a good job of tailgating, they’re sold out, their fans are into the game and they do a good job, I think that helps with their atmosphere.” 

OSU plays Iowa State 3 p.m. Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium on FS1. The venue has been a haunting place for exceptional OSU teams. 

The 2011 matchup between OSU and ISU is still talked about in Stillwater. That game ended with OSU kicker Quinn Sharp missing a 37-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter. The Cyclones’ 37-31 in double overtime likely cost the Cowboys a spot in the BCS Championship game.

Even in 2021, OSU’s best season since 2011, the Cowboys couldn’t escape Ames with a win. Iowa State stopped a late OSU drive, tackling receiver Brennan Presley short on fourth-and-2. The Cowboys lost 24-21, their first defeat of the season, and dropped to 6-1.

Both teams are stumbling into Saturday’s matchup, the 2-1 Cowboys fresh off a 33-7 loss to the Sun Belt’s South Alabama and the 1-2 Cyclones a 10-7 defeat on the road at Ohio, a MAC Conference representative.

Each team faces serious offensive questions. The Cowboys rank No. 111 in total offense, with 321.7 yards per game. Iowa State is even further down the list at No. 127, averaging 270.3 yards. 

ISU’s leading rusher, sophomore Cartevious Norton, has netted 123 yards in three games. As a team, the Cyclones are averaging just 3.2 yards per carry. 

“We’ve got to be able to have consistency in the running game,” ISU coach Matt Campbell said Tuesday.  “That word consistency, it’s not have you seen it, it’s that you haven’t seen it consistently enough to win football games right now.”

On Monday, Gundy gave no indication he’s narrowed his quarterback battle. Freshman Garret Rangel, sophomore Gunnar Gundy and senior Alan Bowman are expected to continue splitting snaps.

Bowman leads the group in attempts, 52, and passing yards, 235. Gunnar Gundy leads in completion percentage, 61.8%, and rushing yards gained, 72. Rangel leads in passer rating, 124.3, and with two touchdown throws.

“I think the one thing about coach Gundy’s offense is that he has had a pretty consistent theme of what he’s trying to do,” Campbell said. “They have great wide receivers. They’ve always had great tailbacks and all three of their quarterbacks have experience. So I think you’re more prepping for the scheme and the who is running the scheme as you are so much with certain personnel.”

The toughest challenge Iowa State will present OSU is a staunch secondary. The Cyclones rank No. 9 in the nation at 253 opponent yards per game. They are No. 8 in the country when it comes to average passing yards surrendered, 143.7.

Sophomore Cyclone corner Jeremiah Cooper is one of ISU’s top defenders. With three interceptions, Cooper has the lowest passer rating against on the team (22.1), according to Pro Football Focus although ISU’s team average of 60.5 isn’t shabby. OSU defenders have given up an average passer rating of 108.4 this season.

Cooper primarily plays the slot corner position, where he will face Presley, who led the Cowboys in receiving last season. That will be a key matchup to watch, especially after Presley was held to just three catches against South Alabama.

“We definitely want to get the ball to Brennan,” Kasey Dunn, OSU offensive coordinator, said after the game last week.

Getting Presley the ball is one of many things the Cowboy offense is looking to improve on after the loss to South Alabama. Dunn said last Saturday he reminded his team that the Big 12 Championship is still on the table, and that there are a lot of good football players in the OSU locker room.

“In a nutshell, I think we’re going to be OK with it, not necessarily the game (against South Alabama), but I think we’re going to be OK moving forward into Big 12 play and I’m looking forward to it,” Dunn said.

 

 

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Ben Hutchens and his twin brother Sam cover Oklahoma State for the Sellout Crowd. After a decade of living in the state, Ben finally feels justified in calling himself an Oklahoman. You can reach him at [email protected] and continue the dialogue @Ben_ Hutchens_ on social media.

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