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Oklahoma Sooners Football: Revisiting the 2002 OU-ISU Game

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Remember that time the Cyclones rolled into Norman ranked No. 9 and primed to upset the No. 2 Sooners?

Nebraska v Iowa State Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

It was in a different time, a distant past when the Oklahoma Sooners were known for fielding one of the fastest, hardest hitting, most feared defenses in the nation. Iowa State, in the top 10 for the first time ever, had been enjoying a dream season behind electrifying Heisman front-runner Seneca Wallace — until inevitably running into the swarming buzz saw that was the 2002 Oklahoma Sooners defense.

On that rainy October, Homecoming afternoon in Norman, the early-2000s Mike Stoops juggernaut stifled the high-powered Cyclones attack that came in averaging 432 yards and 39 points a game to just 60 total yards on 45 plays. The Stoops brothers’ old Iowa buddy Dan McCarney’s team, after rising to No. 9 in the nation, fell crashing loudly back down to Earth/The Big 12.

The athletic and gifted Seneca Wallace came into the OU game ranked 7th in the nation in pass efficiency and was the kind of dynamic quarterback that would give more-recent Mike Stoops defenses complete fits. On that afternoon, however, the OU defense was more than ready and got after him from the get-go, holding the dual-threat playmaker to 1-for-12 passing, ZERO YARDS and two interceptions in a nightmarishly dismal first half. His Heisman hopes slipping and an overrated Cyclones team exposed, Wallace finished 4-of-22 passing for 43 yards and three interceptions, and rushed six times for -28 yards.

The Sooners special teams set the tone early with a blocked punt for a touchdown on the game's fourth play and kept Wallace from finding space to make the big plays that had sparked the Cyclones so far that season. OU’s defense was so tough that Iowa State couldn't score after recovering a fumble at the Sooners' 1-yard line late in the first half. The onslaught continued on after that, as the Cyclones failed to convert a third down on the day.

It still amazes me in these moments of fond remembrance that this was the guy responsible for that defensive beatdown:

West Virginia  v Oklahoma Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images

Consequently, the OU offense capitalized on great field position all day to overpower a tiring and overmatched Iowa State defense. Riding running backs Quentin Griffin and Kejuan Jones, who combined for 197 yards and four touchdowns, the Sooners cruised to an easy 49-3 victory and a third consecutive 7-0 start to the season. Though the stands were soaked on that gloomy fall day in Norman, there was nothing but fire and excitement from the Sooners on the field.

After a third-quarter touchdown pass from Nate Hybl to Brandon Jones made it 42-3, my friends and I made our way out of the stadium to enjoy the rest of the day’s action in drier, more comfortable confines. I felt bad for Seneca Wallace during that game. He was a truly exciting college player who never seemed to fully rebound from that thrashing in Norman. And unlike some other opponents who enjoy a sudden rise (Mizzou and Tech, lookin’ at you), the Cyclones and their fans were nothing but class. They didn’t act in arrogance or like a win was in hand, but that they were truly happy to be competing with OU on a national level.

It should be mentioned that leading this landmark defensive effort was the late great Sooner safety Brandon Everage — one of college football’s hardest-hitting players of all time — who came up with two interceptions, a sack and a forced fumble against the Cyclones. It was a vintage OU defensive performance, which along with No. 7, was one for the ages.

(9) Iowa State at (2) Oklahoma - October 19, 2002