The Oklahoma defense severely limited Iowa State’s offense for most of the afternoon on Saturday.
There was one player who proved to be an exception — Norman native Charlie Kolar.
The former Norman North standout gave the Sooners’ defense all kinds of problems during OU’s 28-21 victory, especially in the second half. Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy targeted the tight end a team-high 14 times, and Kolar turned those targets into 12 catches for 152 yards and a touchdown.
The 6’6, 260-pound redshirt senior was the main source of offense for the Cyclones, and OU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch struggled to stop him.
“He’s gonna use his body and then also in the zone game as well, it’s not so simple as to say, ‘we’ll just play zone,’ because he can box you out in those scenarios and find windows in that,” Grinch said. “[I’ve] got a lot of respect for him, and all he’s done is [make] life a living hell for us the entire time I’ve been here.”
It’s not the first time Kolar has found success against Grinch.
In his three games against the Sooners prior to Saturday, Kolar totaled 12 catches for 152 yards and two touchdowns. But he saved the best for his last matchup with the Sooners.
Kolar was mostly quiet through the first three quarters, catching just four passes for 29 yards, but he came alive in the fourth quarter. His score came on a 2-yard reception in the fourth quarter to cut the OU lead to seven points.
79 of his yards came on the Cyclones’ final drive, as the Sooners’ defense didn’t really have an answer until Pat Field’s secured a game-winning interception with 15 seconds to go.
On the final two drives, Kolar totaled eight catches for 123 yards. In total, he accounted for nearly half of Iowa State’s passing yards.
“A big body like him is tough,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said. “They do a good job using him. ... Your safeties, your nickels, guys like that, you’ve got to stay in the frame of the body and not give guys like that any space to operate. Because when the ball gets there, if you’re not in position, the big body, the length, shows up.
“When we defended him well, we were in the body and closed the space, and when we didn’t, he made plays.”
Kolar has been a reliable target for the Cyclones this season, catching a career-high 53 passes for 758 yards and five touchdowns.
• Flu season: The Sooners were hit hard by the flu this week, as Riley estimated that more than 20 players were out this week due to illness.
“The flu kind of made its way through our football team,” Riley said. “... We had a couple days of COVID in fall camp where we might’ve had a few more guys out, but not many. We were 20-plus a couple of those days as far as players that were out so we had to shift and kind of make do a little bit. Again, give the kids a lot of credit because it was a disjointed week.”
• Injury report: Drake Stoops, Brian Darby, Damond Harmon and Latrell McCutchin did not suit up.
Receiver Theo Wease suited up and participated in pregame warmups but did not play.
D.J. Graham played the first half but was not in uniform for the second half.
Andrew Raym went down in the third quarter with an apparent leg injury and did not return to the game.
• Senior Day: The Sooners honored senior players and their families before the game.
Pat Fields, Jeremiah Hall and Brian Mead were each given the Don Key Award, established by former OU coach Barry Switzer as the highest honor an OU player can receive.
Caleb Kelly and Brayden Willis were given the Bob Kalsu award for leadership. Colt Atkinson was given the Derrick Shepard Most Inspirational Walk-On Award.
• Honoring the team: At halftime, the university honored the 2000 OU national championship team.
Most of the team, including coach Bob Stoops, appeared together on the field. A notable absence was Josh Heupel, the former OU quarterback and current Tennessee coach. The Volunteers played at home against South Alabama on Saturday night.
• Up next: The Sooners play their regular season finale against Oklahoma State at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 27 in Stillwater.