Iowa State Cyclones

Play Action: Iowa State Cyclones at Oklahoma State Cowboys

The Iowa State Cyclones and Oklahoma State Cowboys meet Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla. (USA TODAY Sports)
The Iowa State Cyclones and Oklahoma State Cowboys meet Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla. (USA TODAY Sports)

The last three times Iowa State (1-3, 0-2 Big 12) and No. 21 Oklahoma State (4-1, 1-1) have played, it has been a one-score game, but the Cowboys always have been on the winning side.

Saturday in Stillwater, Okla., looks like it will be another good game, so let’s break it down a bit.

Oklahoma State

— Oklahoma State, like many Big 12 schools, is known for its offense. But the Cowboys actually lead the nation in sacks with 24. Oklahoma State’s pass rush is led by defensive end Jordan Brailford, who has seven sacks. He also has 10.5 tackles for a loss and 18 total tackles.

Iowa State has done OK handling pass rushes, giving up 1.25 sacks per game, which ranks fifth in the Big 12.

“We just have to get the ball out of my hand,” Iowa State quarterback Zeb Noland said. “I know the offensive line and running backs that are in protection will do a great job preparing for what they’ll bring.”

Oklahoma State has one of the most explosive offenses in the nation. Eleven percent of Oklahoma State’s drives end in a touchdown of 20 yards or more — third in the Big 12 and sixth among Power 5 schools.

Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill has a season long rush of 92 yards and four Oklahoma State receivers have at least one reception for more than 40 yards.

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“They create pressure because you know they’re going to create big plays,” Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell said. “I think statistically in the Big 12, they’re leading the Big 12 in big plays and explosive plays. They’re going to push the ball down the field. Their running back, they’re going to give it to him 25 times a game and he’s going to get some big plays.”

Relevant numbers — While the Cowboys offense is explosive, quarterback Taylor Cornelius is inconsistent. Nine of Cornelius’ 12 touchdowns have come in two games — Missouri State and Kansas. Against Texas Tech, one of the worst defenses in the Big 12, he only completed 47 percent of his passes.

Hill already got a mention, but he’s worth mentioning twice. He’s arguably one of the best backs in the nation, averaging 7.5 yards per carry and six touchdowns.

Oklahoma State is turnover prone. Cornelius has thrown five interceptions and the Cowboys have fumbled the ball six times and lost it three times.

Iowa State

— One of the biggest keys to the game, according to Campbell, is finding the rhythm and the pace.

“I don’t think this game is different than any of the past few games in terms of — every game has a different tempo,” Campbell said. “Every game has a different set of how do you manage it? How do you give yourself the best opportunity when the scoreboard ends to win the football game? As you’re still sifting through a lot of scenarios and especially a team that has really good talent like Oklahoma State — they’re a talented football team. You have to find the rhythm of that football game to give yourself a chance to be successful.

“The last two years we’ve played them, we’ve been able to find that rhythm at times and at times we’ve lost that rhythm just enough to cost us the football game.”

This game could’ve been a battle of two of the best running backs in the Big 12. But David Montgomery got banged up last week against TCU. Campbell said the junior could play, but it will depend on his pain tolerance and how much he’s willing to deal with that.

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Montgomery is coming off back-to-back 100 yard games and he’s the third leading rusher in the Big 12 with 84 rushing yards per game, right behind Hill. Johnnie Lang, Sheldon Croney, Kene Nwangwu and Mike Warren will likely be saddled with carrying a little more of the load on Saturday, but in big situations, expect to see No. 32 carrying the ball.

“When it’s a critical situation, you want to put the ball in your best players’ hands,” Campbell said. “I’m not naive to that and it’s something I really believe in. I think we’ve seen David get into a really great rhythm the last two weeks. He’s playing some of his best football right now, and as a true running back, maybe the best I’ve seen him play over the last two years.”

Relevant numbers — Iowa State quarterback Zeb Noland is coming off his worst game as a starter, completing just 50 percent of his passes for less than 100 yards. Noland has shown the ability to be a big-play quarterback, passing for 360 yards and two touchdowns against No. 5 Oklahoma.

If Montgomery can’t go, Iowa State has three other running backs who have taken snaps this season. Those three have combined for just 60 yards and no touchdowns.

Prediction

Oklahoma State 31, Iowa State 24

Iowa State’s defense will be able to limit Oklahoma State’s big-play offense. But given the Cowboys’ potent pass-rush and this only being Noland’s fifth start, this game has chance to turn into a long day for the Cyclones if the pass rush gets home.

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