After a troubling start to conference play, the Oklahoma Sooners (7-2, 6-2) have roared back toward the top of the standings by winning six straight contests and earning a spot in the 2020 Big 12 Championship Game. The reward? A chance for revenge and redemption in a rematch against the Iowa State Cyclones (8-2, 8-1). In OU’s first meeting with Matt Campbell’s squad this season, ISU was the better team in Ames to the tune of 37-30. Today, there isn’t a hotter pair of teams in the league, so it’s only fitting that these two square off once again for all the marbles.
On Tuesday, Lincoln Riley caught up with the media for his weekly presser to talk Iowa State, the recruiting challenges amid a pandemic, Spencer Rattler’s growth and more.
Riley on the similarities and differences in this rematch
A lot has changed for Oklahoma since it last lined up against the Cyclones. Key players have returned to the fold, while several young contributors have gained valuable experience. Of course, Iowa State isn’t the same team it was on Oct. 3, either. Lincoln Riley was asked about what kinds of lessons his team could learn from that first meeting, and how OU is different today compared to two and a half months ago.
“We’re being very careful about trying to tie too much back to that first game, positive or negative. It was a long time ago. Different setting, different teams, personnel is different. Everything is different. This will be its own game. The challenges that Iowa State presents are obviously still there. Still got good players, and they’ve developed, too, as the year’s went on. But I’m confident in our guys. We’ve improved across the board, our secondary’s improved, but we’ll get a great chance to prove it here.”
Riley on using NIL as a recruiting pitch
Beginning on Aug. 1, 2021, student-athletes will be able to profit off of their name, image and likeness. Specific rules, restrictions and stipulations are still being worked out by the NCAA, but one thing is for certain — NIL will become a major factor in the decision-making process for high school prospects as they choose the university they want to enroll in. Riley and his staff take recruiting as serious as any program today, and the young head coach understands the potential OU has as a brand for future student-athletes.
“We try to be pretty forthcoming with our recruits and families about our plans for (using NIL). If it does go into effect like we all expect that it’s going to, we were pretty forthcoming about that. And it’s a balance. [...] Sure, we want every player that comes through here and does a good job, works hard and is a great member of this team and this university, to have opportunities to capitalize on it. Of course we do. That’s no different to me than being thrilled when a player gets drafted first overall or goes and gets that first great job in business or whatever has it. You want these guys to be successful and have opportunities.”
Riley on how Spencer Rattler has improved this year
Coming into the season, the hype around Spencer Rattler was sky high, and for the most part, he’s lived up to his lofty billing. Still, the success he’s had on the field as a redshirt freshman hasn’t come totally without some growing pains. Now with mostly a full season under his belt, he has the experience to back up his natural gifts. Riley discussed his QB’s gradual growth this fall.
“I think (Rattler’s) getting better. I saw a PFF stat where I think he’s the No. 1 guy in the country at (throwing on the run), so I mean, to be the No. 1 guy in the country is probably pretty good, most of the way.”
Riley on the significance of winning another Big 12 title
As impressive as Lincoln Riley’s coaching resume is, perhaps the most amazing part is his consistency against Big 12 competition. Since arriving to Norman in 2015, the Sooners have won the league title every season and have a chance to win a sixth consecutive championship this Saturday. Riley was asked about how much pride he takes in such consistency.
“It means a lot. I came in on the ground floor of that, and I said I remember at the time coming in, not totally knowing the rest of the league and all that as well as I did. I remember thinking that it’s going to be a big climb to go get one of these. Now, we were able to do it that first year with Coach Stoops leading the way, and we’ve been able to get on a pretty good run winning six straight since then. I do take pride in it, I mean certainly it’s a huge accomplishment. I mean, there’s a reason why it hadn’t happened in major college football very often. It’s so hard to do, and do that consistently.”
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Redshirt junior center Creed Humphrey is not only a team captain this season, he’s also one of the most experienced players on the roster. According to his assessment, the mental maturity on the team is the area where the Sooners have shown the most growth since they lost to Iowa State.
"Really our team has grown just in the mental aspect of the game a lot. We've had a lot of young players step up and are doing really good things for us right now."— Ryan Chapman (@RadiosRyan) December 15, 2020
Creed Humphrey on what has changed for the #Sooners since they last played Iowa State
Redshirt sophomore WR Drake Stoops on how much pride the team takes in winning the Big 12 Championship and keeping the streak alive:
“Every year is a new year, but you definitely want to continue that success. You don’t want to be the team that maybe broke that streak. Obviously the end goal is to win a Big 12 Championship every year. That’s what expected. That’s the standard here.”
During his presser period, Lincoln Riley made a pretty amusing statement on the Cyclones’ talent level, particularly on how it’s being underestimated for the simple fact that it’s Iowa State. Guys like Breece Hall, Brock Purdy and JaQuan Bailey will all likely find careers playing football at the next level.
Lincoln Riley on Iowa State's talent: "They have good talent. This isn't some Rudy story."— Jason Kersey (@jasonkersey) December 15, 2020
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