The Oklahoma Sooners raced out to a big lead in the Big 12 conference championship game Saturday and withstood a second-half charge to pull out a 27-21 win over the Iowa State Cyclones. The victory gave OU its sixth consecutive conference title. The Sooners now sit at 8-2 overall with a bowl game left to go.
OU coach Lincoln Riley put his faith in the Sooner defense down the stretch with a series of conservative decisions that put the Cyclones in position to score a go-ahead touchdown in the waning minutes of the game. A Tre Brown interception of a pass from ISU quarterback Brock Purdy deep in OU territory with a little more than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter sealed the win for the Sooners. The senior cornerback played arguably the best all-around game of his career, adding two long kickoff returns that set up drives resulting in a total of 10 points. He also broke up another pass and added two tackles.
Most valuable player honors went to OU QB Spencer Rattler, however. The redshirt freshman completed 22-of-34 pass attempts for 272 yards and a touchdown. Rattler also ran for a touchdown late in the second quarter to give the Sooners a 24-7 lead going into halftime.
OU scored just three points in the final two quarters. They came courtesy of a 32-yard field goal by kicker Gabe Brkic on the Sooners’ final drive of the game. Brkic also drilled a 54-yard attempt in the first half.
The lack of scoring by OU in the second half reflected the Sooners’ struggles to move the ball consistently. The offense gained a total of 121 yards on 31 plays in the final two quarters. The Cyclones got stops on all six of OU’s attempts to convert on third down in the second half.
Even with the O sputtering, Riley was content to leverage field position and force the Cyclones to drive 80-plus yards to reach the end zone. Five of ISU’s drives in the second half started inside its own 25 yard line.
The Cyclones gained 435 total yards on 71 plays for an average of 6.1 yards per snap. OU bottled up ISU running back Breece Hall, allowing the Big 12’s offensive player of the year to run for 79 yards on 23 attempts. Instead, Iowa State did most of its damage on throws to receiver Xavier Hutchinson and tight end Charlie Kolar. The pair combined for more than 200 yards receiving on 16 receptions.
ISU’s passing game played a key role in the Cyclones’ demise, though. OU’s defensive line harassed Purdy from start to finish, sacking the ISU QB three times. In addition to Brown’s game-sealing oskie, the Sooners picked off Purdy two other times. A Tre Norwood takeaway in the end zone in the first half negated a promising ISU drive.
In the end, Rattler connected with his receivers often enough to give OU the cushion it needed, including a 45-yard TD bomb to rookie Marvin Mims. RB Rhamondre Stevenson also pounded out 97 rushing yards on 18 attempts.
The Sooners now await word on their postseason destination. A spot in the College Football Playoff for a fourth straight season seems unlikely. Instead, look for OU to draw a representative from the SEC in the Cotton Bowl.