With just 26 seconds to go before halftime, Iowa State tried to break the tie.
The Cyclones had the ball in Oklahoma territory looking for a quick score to end the half, as ISU’s Brock Purdy took the snap and looked to throw downfield.
As he scrambled, OU’s Key Lawrence met him at the line of scrimmage and knocked the ball loose. The fumble traveled backwards and was eventually picked up by OU’s Jalen Redmond, who took it 42 yards for a touchdown.
Instead of a tie, it gave the Sooners a seven-point lead going into halftime. and that ended up being the winning margin, as Oklahoma held off the Cyclones with a 28-21 win on Saturday at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
In a game full of big defensive plays by the Sooners, none proved to be more impactful than Redmond’s first career touchdown.
“The defense was incredibly impactful, including maybe the single biggest play of the game, the Redmond fumble return for a touchdown right before half,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said.
While the Sooners’ (10-1, 7-1 conference) offense struggled for most of the game, the defense picked up the slack.
OU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch looked to pressure Purdy and it worked. The Sooners finished with seven sacks — five more than their output in the last three games — and 11 tackles for loss.
They held Iowa State to a season-low 51 rushing yards on 35 attempts and also limited Iowa State to 361 total yards, 73 fewer than their season average.
“For those guys in the front to be disciplined in the run game and then have a huge impact on a really good tailback [Breece Hall]... that we have a lot of respect for and we’ve had battles with, and then combine that in the pass game, it gave us a shot to find a way to win the game,” Grinch said.
While Redmond’s fumble recovery — one of three turnovers the team forced — gave the Sooners a much-needed lead before halftime, the team’s final turnover sealed the game.
As the Cyclones trailed by seven on their final possession, they managed to move the ball to the OU 21-yard line. But the Sooners forced a 4th-and-10, and Purdy’s desperation pass was intercepted by Pat Fields that gave the Sooners’ the win.
“A lot of these guys, we’ve been in this situation before,” OU’s Nik Bonitto said. “Nothing surprises us. We saw they were on a drive and we just kept going at it. We just kept pushing, and we were able to get that stop toward the end of the game.”
While the defense found success, it was a tough day for the Sooners’ offense.
OU quarterback Caleb Williams scored on a 74-yard run on the team’s second play, but that was the lone touchdown the offense scored in the first half as Iowa State limited the Sooners’ passing offense to just 96 yards.
But the Sooners found success behind their running game in the second half. OU running back Kennedy Brooks surpassed the 100-yard mark for the first time in four games, and the team as a whole finished with 209 rushing yards.
Riley called 34 rushing plays compared to 19 passing plays, as Williams and the receivers never found a rhythm.
“To be able to run it… was obviously one of the differentiating factors in the game,” Riley said. “The rushing battle... that’s probably the difference in the game.”
The focus for the Sooners’ defense this week was executing all four quarters after surrendering 17 points to Baylor in the fourth quarter last week.
And the Sooners are confident they can build on their performance against Iowa State.
“If something didn’t go our way, we responded,” OU’s Isaiah Thomas said. “And ultimately we finished the game the way we wanted to, with a win. That’s what I credit our win to was our emotion and how we responded.”