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Iowa State Debriefing: Taking Stock after OSU’s Worst Big 12 Start in 12 Years

Several pressing questions need answered moving forward for OSU.



After the Oklahoma State’s 48-42 home loss to Iowa State, it is now 1-2 in Big 12 play, the worst conference start since 2006. There are a number of things to dissect following the disappointing defeat. Let’s debrief.

The Short Story

The Cowboys jumped on the Cyclones early. On the first snap of the game, Trey Carter bull-dozed his man and sacked Zeb Noland for a loss of 10. OSU’s defense got off of the field with a three-and-out, effectively retiring Noland for the day. Four minutes and a Jelani Woods TD in, it was 7-zip Cowboys.

The bad news? At the end of Cyclone’s bench was a thing called a “Brock Purdy” (I distinctly remember writing a similar statement including “something called a Zeb Noland” last year.) Well apparently, the freshman is Purdy good at football. He looked anything but shy coming in with zero pass attempts to his credit, and finished 18-of-23 for 318 yards, five total TDs and a pick.

OSU’s defense didn’t do enough, its offensive line did it few favors and Cornelius was probably above average based on what he had to deal with.

Who Earned a Marshal Badge
Offense: Landon Wolf

The former walk-on who burst onto the scene in Lawrence after Jalen McCleskey cashed in his redshirt for the year, showed that he was more than just a one-week wonder. Wolf led the Cowboys with six well-timed catches on eight targets totaling 63 yards. The redshirt sophomore is a stud and has star potential in OSU’s offense moving forward.

Defense: Rodarius Williams

The redshirt sophomore got thrown to a lot by Brock Purdy — which resulted in a couple of big plays and a score — but his coverage was good despite giving up four inches to Cyclones wideout Matthew Eaton.

Williams record six total tackles, two pass breakups and his first career interception.

Question for Week 7

There are several pressing questions that need to be answered for OSU moving forward, like whether or not a QB change is warranted, why OSU is so undisciplined with penalties and what’s with all of these special teams snafus? We will get to most of those this week. But this one stood out to me.

Are sacks enough?

That answer is an apparent “No.” The Cowboys still lead the nation in sacks (28.0), and by a good margin. Ohio State (26.0) is six behind OSU or 1.0 per game. But Jim Knowles’ defense ranks 105th (!) in opponent’s passer rating, allowing QBs a 146.5 rating, 15 touchdowns and four interceptions.

Sacks are fun and all but a QB that can move in (and out) of the pocket can bedowngrade their effectiveness, as can one who gets rid of the ball quickly. Or, half of the QBs remaining on OSU’s schedule.

The ugly side of that “aggressive” defense that sucked most of us, is the propensity to get beat on big plays. So far, OSU has not avoided that pitfall. Here are some of the numbers after six weeks. T-97th in opponent long passing plays, T-48th in long rushing plays allowed and 90th in long scrimmage plays allowed. More telling is OSU’s rank as 57th in defensive efficiency rating by BFC Toys and 60th in points per drive allowed (2.04).

Can we chalk some of these struggles up to youngsters in the secondary still learning the new system? Does Jim Knowles need more time to get himself up to speed? Does OSU need to add even more resources to that side of the ball?

I don’t know the answer to those, but I do know that this defense got torched by two freshmen captaining the teams picked to finish 7th and 8th in the conference preseason rankings. How is going to look against TCU, Oklahoma or West Virginia? Things could get ugly.

Play of the Game

Taylor Cornelius was far from perfect on Saturday and spent most of his time on the run. But when he was able to get a little protection, he made a handful of very nice throws, including this one to Dillon Stoner for a touchdown.

And this nice throw and catch for 7 by Tyron Johnson.