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Iowa State Daily

Iowa State Daily

Cyclone football seeks to keep success rolling on the road against Oklahoma

Daniel Jacobi II
Iowa State’s Eli Sanders is pulled up by his teammate after a play during the second half of the football game against Oklahoma State on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames.

A re-equipped Oklahoma team stands in the way of the Cyclones starting Big 12 play 2-0 for the first time since 2020, and Iowa State’s developing offense is up for the challenge.

The Cyclones hit the road for the first time in Big 12 play for a matchup with the No. 14 ranked Sooners, who have gotten back to their reign as one of the top teams in the conference. After ending last season with six wins, the team’s lowest since 1998, the Sooners have gotten back to finding success with their offensive weapons.

Oklahoma quarterback Dillion Gabriel has been the star of the Sooners offense that leads the Big 12 in scoring and second in yards per game. The six-year veteran signal-caller has had a hot start to his season amassing over 1,200 passing yards and 14 total touchdowns in four games.

“You’re talking about as veteran of a team systematically,” head coach Matt Campbell said. “[Gabriel] been in this system, not just at Oklahoma but since Central Florida, for six years. He’s a kid with elite precision and knows what his answers are. He’s almost the offensive coordinator at times on the field.”

While the Iowa State defense will have its hands full attempting to slow down the Sooner’s veteran offense, the focus turns to whether the Cyclone offense can continue the success they found against Oklahoma State. With season-high numbers across the board in their matchup against the Cowboys, Iowa State will need to keep things rolling to pull off the upset on the road.

One aspect that got going, which had plagued the team all season, was the run game. After running back Cartevious Norton went down in the first half, Eli Sanders stepped up and finished with 58 rushing yards and the team’s first rushing touchdown from a tailback.

While a lot of the trouble on the ground has been more of an issue with the offensive line, Sanders remains confident with his guys up front and trusts them to help him break open big plays that he’s shown in spurts.

“I just trust the offensive line to open up the holes,” Sanders said. “They believe in me and I believe in them, wherever we’re running the scheme to that’s where I’m looking to and just making a play after that.”

Iowa State quarterback Rocco Becht has been given more of the reigns to the offense each week as the starter as he continues to integrate his game into the Cyclones system. Against Oklahoma State, Becht had the best game of his career statistically and made the most of the opportunities Campbell and offensive coordinator Nate Scheelhaase gave him.

A huge part of Becht’s success has come from his comfortability in the pocket aided by an offensive line that has given up one sack through four games. Becht will need his protection in this one, as the Sooner’s defense has made a living off of forcing bad throws and leads the Big 12 with eight interceptions.

Becht believes that as long as he and his guys up front communicate well on pre-snap reads and make necessary adjustments, that will help tremendously when trying to decipher the Sooner’s defense.

“I think that starts with communication between the five up front and me,” Becht said. “Planning it out and being alert for it and not shocked when it’s coming. I think the communication is the first part that we need to look at and we need to be on the same page during the game.”

Campbell stressed the importance of not letting the Big 12’s leading scoring defense get to his young quarterback and taking advantage of their opportunities on offense.

“They create chaos on defense,” Campbell said. “They’re a high-pressure defense and I think one thing for us offensively to continue to have success, especially in a game like this, you got to do a great job of taking care of the football.”

The Cyclones in years past have shown their capability of pulling off top-25 upsets, especially against Big 12 opponents.

Campbell has always preached his team’s goal of getting better every week no matter the opponent. An upset win on the road would do a lot for the team moving forward, but with a talented Sooners team looming over them, Iowa State will need to play their best ball game to come home with a win.

“They’re a football team that’s clicking on all cylinders right now and certainly on the offensive side of the ball,” Campbell said. “The defensive side is really talented and really young. For us, it’s a huge week for us to continue to move forward.”

The Cyclones will kick off against the Sooners at 6 p.m. Saturday and the game will be streamed on FS1.

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    Larry | Sep 30, 2023 at 10:15 pm

    Said it last week and saying it again: time to bring in a new head coach.