Over the next two weeks, we’ll continue to close the door on the 2013 season. Every Big 12 team suffered at least one loss during the regular season and losses can be as beneficial as wins. In this team-by-team series, we’ll take a look at the best loss of the year for each Big 12 team including what happened and why it matters.
On Thursday, we focus on Iowa State.
Best loss: 48-10 loss to Oklahoma on Nov. 16, in a game that didn’t get out of hand until the second half.
What happened: The Cyclones were clearly the better team in the first half. ISU held a 10-3 lead midway through the second quarter before a Jalen Saunders' 91-yard punt return just before halftime tied the game at 10. ISU had twice as many first downs and gained 198 yards, 88 more than the Sooners in the first half.
OU turned the game around with Saunders’ punt return giving them momentum heading into halftime followed by a 69-yard touchdown run by Damien Williams on the Sooners first possession of the second half. The Cyclones, after winning the first half in a tough road environment, lay down once OU started to make plays and take control. OU outscored ISU 38-0 in the final 30 minutes.
Why it was helpful: The Cyclones learned a valuable lesson. They battled the Sooners, a BCS bowl team which won 11 games, toe-to-toe in OU’s home stadium yet fell apart once adversity hit with Saunders’ punt return. If ISU had went into halftime with the lead it could have changed the game. But the Sooners’ senior receiver used special teams to spark his team and stomp on the Cyclones’ upset chances.
ISU learned it could compete with a team that won double-digit games, the value of every single play and saw how one special teams play can completely change the momentum of a game their offense and defense was winning in the first half.
It was a critical lesson for a young team that learned a lot of lessons in 2013 that could pay off in 2014.
Revealing stat: Oklahoma’s 3.79 yards per play in the first half. Only Baylor (2.97) held the Sooners to a lower yards per play average in the first half in 2013. The Cyclones should take a lot of confidence from their first half performance in Norman, Okla.
Quote of note: “The top teams in this league, we are not drastically behind. Our kids realize that, but we don’t do enough things right physically or even with the mindset like in a situation like this to overcome that. There is great teachable moment.” ISU coach Paul Rhoads on Saunders’ punt return and his team’s response to the adversity.