How Iowa State’s previously inept passing game burned OSU

How Iowa State’s previously inept passing game burned OSU

Iowa State’s freshman quarterback torched the Cowboys for 348 yards and three touchdowns to send OSU to the bye week on a two-game losing streak.

Ben Hutchens

By Ben Hutchens

| Sep 23, 2023, 10:17pm CDT

Ben Hutchens

By Ben Hutchens

Sep 23, 2023, 10:17pm CDT

AMES, Iowa — The Iowa State Cyclones were statistically the worst passing team in the Big 12. Their coming out party came Saturday against the Cowboys.

Oklahoma State surrendered 348 yards and three touchdowns to freshman quarterback Rocco Becht to open conference play with a 34-27 loss at Jack Trice Stadium. The Cyclones were a week removed from scoring seven points is a loss at Ohio, a MAC Conference opponent. 

Iowa State entered Big 12 play averaging 184 passing yard per game. Becht, the son of former NFL tight end Anthony Becht, surpassed that by halftime.

OSU positioned itself defensively to stop the Cyclones running game, limiting the Cyclones to 2.2 yards per carry. That left the back end of the defense vulnerable. 

“Well, you had 10 guys in the box the entire game,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. “People are going to stack the box. I just thought Rocco played an incredible game in his efficiency. The way he threw the football and to get people out of the box, you got to prove you can throw the football and especially prove that efficiency.”

Becht completed 27 of 38 passes (71%) and hit seven passing plays for 20 or more yards, three of which went for touchdowns.

“Too many explosive passes, that’s really what it comes down to, the explosive plays,” OSU’s first-year defensive coordinator Bryan Nardo said. “That’s something we have to continue to eliminate. I thought we fit the run better, I thought we were aggressive in our run fits, I thought we tackled well. But we did not eliminate the big pass, that’s where they got behind us.”

Postgame, OSU coach Mike Gundy said he agreed that ISU receivers routinely caught the ball with plenty of space around them. He said he told his team around the third quarter they needed to tighten up the coverage.

Becht’s first touchdown came on a 38-yard throw late in the first quarter. Junior receiver Jaylin Noel shedded light contact at the line and ran behind senior safety Trey Rucker, who kept his eyes looking in the backfield. Noel caught the ball with nobody in a seven-yard radius, part of a career-high 146-yard game.

“We just had a bust, just dropped coverage,” Gundy said. “The scheme was fine, but we dropped coverage. Somebody didn’t cover their man I guess is the best way to put it.”

There was more separation late in the third quarter. Junior ISU receiver Daniel Jackson started in the slot and cut diagonally in front of OSU freshman Cameron Epps. Epps lost his footing on slick Midamerican Energy Field grass and fell as Jackson caught the ball and pranced into the end zone.

Epps was playing in place of sophomore safety Lyrick Rawls, who didn’t make the trip to Ames. Nardo said Rawls “wasn’t ready to go this week” and that not having him hurt the defense.

It is the second straight game the Cowboys, still integrating a Nardo’s 3-3-5 defensive scheme, have given up more than 30 points. The Cowboys gave up 243 rushing yards in 33-7 home loss Sept. 17 to South Alabama.

OSU (2-2) enters its bye week on a two-game losing streak.

“I mean, I’m not concerned,” Gundy said. “We’re learning it, I think our guys are playing hard. We need to try and work through a couple dropped coverages. We had a couple dropped coverages a week ago and a couple today. If we can work through those, I think it will help a lot.”

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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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