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Three Big Takeaways: Cyclones start Big 12 play undefeated, offense came to play

Joseph Dicklin
Iowa State quarterback, Rocco Becht, throwing a pass in the Iowa State vs. Oklahoma State football game on Sept, 23. 2023.

AMES — The Cyclones needed a bounce-back game after falling to Ohio one week earlier. In front of a home crowd, Iowa State performed the best it’s been this season and took down Oklahoma State 34-27.

Iowa State’s offense was the star of the show, as big plays were easy to come by for Iowa State quarterback Rocco Becht and company.

The Cyclones dominated on the offensive side of the ball, which was a big change from a week ago. When the Cyclones needed to find their identity most, they did just that to start the Big 12 season 1-0 in conference play.

Big plays dominate the day

The story of the game was big plays from both teams setting up scores.

Oklahoma State found cracks in Iowa State’s defense all day. The big plays that resulted from the cracks set up the Cowboys to the most points so far against an elite Cyclone defense.

On the other hand, the Cyclones had their best offensive outing of the season thanks to big plays through the air.

The combination of wide receivers Jaylin Noel and Daniel Jackson caught Oklahoma State’s secondary off guard.

The game started with Oklahoma State firing first. Oklahoma State running back Ollie Gordon broke through Iowa State’s defense to break off a 71-yard run.

“You know, they had a big play on us early,” linebacker Beau Freyler said. “Obviously, we just gotta keep fighting.”

The player that kept fighting was Iowa State defensive back Ben Nikkel.

After missing a tackle at the start of the run, Nikkel switched into second gear as he chased Gordon down to prevent a breakaway touchdown. One play later, Oklahoma State quarterback Alan Bowman finished the job himself.

“Things will happen, and you gotta have the ability to adjust,” Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell said.

Iowa State answered back with a touchdown drive of its own. Noel had two big plays to set up the game-tying touchdown.

The first half was decided by big plays. When Iowa State fired a ball into the end zone, Oklahoma State answered back with another big play.

Jackson broke past Oklahoma State’s defensive backs on two separate plays to pick up his two touchdowns of the day.

“I thought Daniel Jackson was incredible,” Campbell said.

Even the run game was getting in on the action late. After Cartevious Norton went down early in the game due to an injury, Eli Sanders picked up the workload.

Late in the game, Sanders started finding more holes in the rush attack. Sanders punched a ball into the end zone after setting himself up with a big run.

“How about Eli Sanders?” Campbell said. “I thought he was tremendous.”

Oklahoma State finished with 11 big plays. Seven through the air, and four on the ground.

Iowa State finished with 10. Eight of Iowa State’s big plays came through the air.

It was clear all day if the Cyclones wanted to get a win to open the Big 12 season, they needed to do so through the passing game.

“It gives us confidence to keep rolling,” Noel said. “We knew we could do this, it was just a matter of time.”

Noel throws up impressive numbers in first game back

Noel was absent from Iowa State’s road trip loss to Athens, Ohio, due to a stomach bug that hit the team.

“We know what he’s got the ability to do, it was great to see him back healthy,” Campbell said. “We certainly missed him a week ago.”

By Tuesday’s press conference, Noel was back at it in practice. With a week off, and a loss where he could not help his team fresh in his mind, Noel wanted to hit the field running against Oklahoma State.

Noel did just that.

From the jump, it was clear that Noel was going to be the star of the show. Although Iowa State took a couple drives to get going, by the third drive, Becht found his rhythm and hit Noel for a deep shot.

“Week one I missed [Noel] a couple times, so I had to get him back,” Becht said.

After the Cowboys scored, Noel took it into his own hands to get the momentum back in Iowa State’s favor. Just a few plays after his big catch, Noel found himself wide open again. Becht connected with Noel, and Noel walked into the endzone to tie up the game.

“I’m more happy for the team than myself,” Noel said. “Just being able to go out there and create momentum for the team.”

By the end of the first quarter, Noel had four catches for 81 yards and a touchdown. Just two drives later, Noel caught another big catch to get over 100 receiving yards on the day.

Noel broke his career high for receiving yards in the game. That record of his fell in the first half, as he already amassed 126 yards on seven catches.

Noel was still making plays in the second half, but was taking more of a backseat as he let other receivers get some work in.

“Really the whole receiver room came to play today,” Becht said.

Noel caught another ball in the third quarter, tacking on another 20 yards. By the end of the day, Noel finished the day with 146 yards.

Becht balls out

Although the wins have not gone in Iowa State’s favor, Becht has been a shining light on the offensive side of the ball.

“His ability to manage the football game today was elite,” Campbell said.

Becht has been efficient while leading solid drives through the air. With a struggling run game, Becht has done what he could to keep the Cyclones in each game.

It was only a matter of time before he broke out.

“You just feel like he’s been growing into that,” Campbell said. “Earning the right to be able to do those things.”

With the Cyclones still finding their identity on offense entering Big 12 play, they were running out of time to get things together. Becht’s performance against Oklahoma State was a good sign for what the potential of the team can be.

Becht was as efficient as always, keeping the ball safe while also finding open receivers all day. He connected with Noel and Jackson for touchdowns in the first half.

Becht had 223 yards and two touchdowns in the first half while maintaining a 68% completion percentage. A solid statline that helped the Cyclones stay on top through most of the game.

Becht did not stop after the first half. Any success the Cyclones found on offense was thanks to the arm of Becht.

Becht found Jackson again in the second half for another touchdown. No matter who was open, Becht was finding them.

“I got the first one, didn’t think I was gonna get many more catches after that,” Jackson said. “Then I got the second one and It was kinda like, okay, now I’m here.”

By the third quarter, Becht was over 300 yards passing. Along with that, he was keeping up a 70% completion percentage.

Becht finished the game with 348 passing yards and three touchdowns. He also threw no interceptions.

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