Shaky start for the Cowboys in this one, and it hasn't gone how Oklahoma State would like, but the Cowboys are in a good spot, leading 17-7 after a mistake-filled first half that featured a couple big plays.
Time for some analysis.
Turning point: Iowa State quarterback Jared Barnett converted a third down with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Darius Reynolds to pull the Cyclones within 10-7 midway through the second quarter. Barnett's thrown the ball a bit more than Iowa State would probably like, and he's been streaky while his receivers have been plagued by drops, but no pass was bigger than that one, and showed that the Cyclones meant business.
Stat of the half: Oklahoma State has 20 rushing yards on eight carries, and one of those carries went for 10 yards. Slowing the Cowboys offense is one of college football's most difficult tasks, but stopping the running game from rolling is the best way to make it manageable and give your defense a chance to make plays. Iowa State's linebackers have been outstanding.
Best player in the half: Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State. Weeden's been given all kinds of time by his offensive line, and he's made the Iowa State defense pay while the Cowboys have struggled running the ball. He's completed 23 of 30 passes for 267 yards and a touchdown. Despite being in just his second year as a starter, Weeden also broke the school record for career passing yards.
What Oklahoma State needs to do: Iowa State is in the game because of turnovers. Joseph Randle coughed up a fumble near midfield and Weeden threw an interception deep in ISU territory because he was pressured and forced an uncomfortable throw off his back foot. Chances are OSU scores on at least one of those drives and this game looks different without those miscues. The second-half objective should be obvious, then. OSU hasn't run the ball well and the Cowboys went with Jeremy Smith after the Randle fumble. Simply put, Oklahoma State does not lose this game if it plays a turnover-free second half.
What Iowa State needs to do: It's a scary proposition, but it must keep bringing the heat on Weeden and try to force him to make mistakes. The defensive line is getting no pressure when the Cyclones don't blitz, and Weeden will torch any defense with that kind of time — to say nothing of a defense like Iowa State's, which is far from elite. When ISU has blitzed, good things have happened. Keep doing it, and you might give up a big play, but you might make a few with blitzes. Iowa State's not going to win letting Weeden pick them apart. It slowed down the blitzes late in the second half and Weeden found his rhythm and started hitting on throws all over the field.
Furthermore, if OSU gives up turnovers in the second half, Iowa State has to take advantage. Neither first-half turnover cost Oklahoma State any points.