Iowa State Cyclones

Victorious Iowa State outplays Oklahoma in second half ... as usual

Cyclones come up big after halftime for first home win over Sooners in 60 years

Oklahoma running back T.J. Pledger (5) is tackled by Iowa State defensive back Greg Eisworth II (12) during the first ha
Oklahoma running back T.J. Pledger (5) is tackled by Iowa State defensive back Greg Eisworth II (12) during the first half of the Cyclones’ 37-30 win over the Sooners Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

AMES — Iowa State has beaten Oklahoma, in football, in Ames. Iowa State is two games ahead of Oklahoma, in football, in the Big 12.

These aren’t things that happen any old decade. Unless you’re at least 60, these aren’t things that have previously happened in your lifetime.

“We still have a lot of growth we have to do to be the program we want to be,” a calm Cyclones Coach Matt Campbell said afterward in a Zoom conference with reporters. The loud locker room celebration posted on Twitter that showed Campbell hoisted on players’ shoulders suggested this felt like significant growth in one night.

The score Saturday evening at Jack Trice Stadium was 37-30. Yes, the Cyclones had the 37. The crowd was limited to 15,000, but those who were here celebrated loudly enough for those who did their whooping from a distance.

The whooping from the locker room included a lot from seniors who joined this program on faith, not any past glories.

“You’re talking 16 seniors,” Campbell said, “and the bulk of that senior class came to Iowa State when Iowa State was the laughing stock of college football. You know, Chase Allen, JaQuan Bailey, these guys came to Iowa State when we were 3-9 year one.

“What we sold was a vision of hope, and to be honest with you, so many of these guys have been a pillar from day one of that building block.”


Seniors had nights. Running back Kene Nwangwu, injury-plagued in his career, had a huge play for the second-straight week. His only carry in a win at TCU was a 49-yard touchdown. His 85-yard kickoff return midway through the fourth quarter returned momentum to Iowa State after the Sooners had gone ahead 30-23 following a Cyclone turnover.

Senior tight ends Chase Allen and Dylan Soehner don’t and won’t have the receiving numbers of tight end Charlie Kolar, a horse again Saturday with four catches for 66 yards when the Sooners weren’t called for pass interference trying to deny him. That Kolar is from Norman (he was a high school basketball teammate of former Sooner star Trae Young) must gnaw at Sooner fans.

Allen and Soehner are good players, too and they may have recorded the first tight end-to-tight end pass play in football history when Soehner threw 28 yards to Allen in the second quarter on a drive that cut Oklahoma’s lead to 17-13.

Youth was also served, with someone with an appropriate last name. Freshman defensive back Isheem Young’s first interception won’t be forgotten, coming in the end zone on Oklahoma’s last possession.

“I got deep,” Young said. “I made a play.”

Then there’s sophomore running back Breece Hall. He’s a different kind of runner than predecessor David Montgomery, but a worthy successor to the current Chicago Bear starter. Hall had an 8-yard gain on a third-and-6 on the same drive as Soehner-to-Allen. It didn’t start out looking promising, but Hall somehow got around the right edge and got a first down at the OU 3 that set up a touchdown.

Hall really went to work in the second half with 100 of his 139 yards. He went 36 yards to the Oklahoma 8, then powered the rest of the way to the end zone on the next play for a 37-30 Cyclones lead. He looked like one of the Sooners’ dozens of all-conference running backs over their history. He had more rushing yards than Oklahoma’s team.

“Breece is Breece,” Purdy said. “He makes plays. He just has great vision and everything. I’m not surprised.”

Purdy completed just 12 of 24 passes, but the completions averaged a whopping 21.2 yards. He, like his coach, tried to play it cool on Zoom, insisting his team doesn’t train in the offseason for Oklahoma, but for the whole Big 12. Meaning, it can’t pat itself on the back.


Nor should it. It already knew the feeling of beating ranked teams, having done so six other times in Campbell’s time here. Now it’s time to see if it can’t build on this and keep a flawless league record for a while.

A victory at Big 12 kingpin Oklahoma in 2017 and a one-point loss there in 2019 meant Iowa State already was no longer the Sooners’ foot wipe. This win meant you can earnestly say these programs are equals when they meet each other.

It also meant Iowa State actually beat Oklahoma in Ames. It hadn’t happened since 1960. That spanned 24 losses in two stadiums, most of them blowouts.

It meant ISU defeated the program that has current streaks of five straight Big 12 championships and three College Football Playoff appearances. The former is in trouble, and the latter is all but officially halted.

It meant the Cyclones sure are doing something right in second halves against the Sooners, since they rallied from a 17-13 halftime deficit Saturday and have outscored Oklahoma over their last four second halves against each other by a total of 93-40.

It means something else, something that has a long way to reach fruition but surely is now doable. Iowa State can finish ahead of Oklahoma in the conference standings, something it hasn’t done since 1965.

The first time the two teams played in Ames was in 1928, and the Cyclones won. But they had conquered Oklahoma here just one other time, 60 years ago. The Sooners came here Saturday night with a 24-game winning streak in this city, spanning two stadiums.

But now, the Cyclones are 2-0 in the Big 12 and Oklahoma is 0-2. Now, the Sooners have their first two-game regular-season losing streak since 1999. Now, despite losing their season opener to Louisiana here, ISU has declared itself someone to be taken seriously in the conference race. Its win at TCU the week before looked even better Saturday when the Horned Frogs stopped Texas in Austin.


There are seven conference games left, hopefully. The road is long. This, though, definitely was a leap forward.

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