Whenever you lose your way as a football team, the best thing to do is go back, assess your strengths and pound away with them.
That's exactly what the Oklahoma Sooners did against Iowa State on Saturday. Coming off a bye week, the Sooners simply lined up behind its veteran offensive line and pounded the Cyclones for 60 minutes, resulting in a 59-14 romp.
When the dust settled, the Sooners had piled up an astonishing 751 yards, the most in the Bob Stops era, and run for an even more impressive 510 yards. The Sooners had three players rush for over 100 yards and a fourth run for 76. Oklahoma had 59 carries and averaged 8.6 yards per carry. It was a performance that made you wonder why the Sooners ever got away from running the football in the first place.
Coming into the game, Iowa State's run defense was ranked 105th in the country, so it's not like the Sooners put on this performance against a top-10 team or anything. But still, anytime you run for 500 yards against anyone, you're clearly doing something right.
Trevor Knight (146 yards, three touchdowns), Alex Ross (144 yards) and Samaje Perine (110 yards, one touchdown) all crossed the century mark, while backup David Smith came in during the fourth quarter and in his first action as a Sooners, carried 10 times for 76 yards and a touchdown. It was that kind of day for the Oklahoma offense.
The biggest difference for the Sooners on Saturday, even more so than the massive performance on the ground, was a fast start. Against TCU and Kansas State—and even Texas—the OU offense was stymied early and that prevented the Sooners from getting into any sort of rhythm. Against Iowa State, the Sooners jumped out to a 21-0 lead before the Cyclones woke up for the 11 a.m. kickoff.
Oklahoma's offense needed just two plays to find the end zone after the defense forced a three-and-out. Knight hit Sterling Shepard for 46 yards, but Shepard injured his groin on the play and left the game. He didn't return, but Bob Stoops after the game he was available but due to the Sooners' big lead, it wasn't worth the risk of further injury. Knight scored the Sooners' first touchdown on a 31-yard scramble after corralling a high snap.
The ease of the Sooners' defensive stop and ability to score set the pace for the whole afternoon. At the end of the first quarter, OU led 21-0 and had racked up 274 yards and two touchdown passes from Knight, one to K.J. Young and the other to Blake Bell, one of two for Bell on Saturday.
Things went so well for Oklahoma, it didn't even miss Shepard or require the services of Keith Ford, who appeared to be ready to return after suffering a broken leg against Tennessee back on Sept. 13. Instead, the Sooners got a very good performance from true freshman Michiah Quick, who caught eight passes for 56 yards. Quick showed why's he a freshman, dropping three passes, but showcased the speed and elusiveness that made him a coveted recruit.
Knight finished the day 22-fo-35 for 230 yards and three scores. He hit seven different receivers, a good sign considering he was without Shepard nearly the entire day. Knight did throw two interceptions, both poor passes, the only blemishes on an otherwise dominant performance.
As good as the offense was, a rout wouldn't have been possible without a strong performance from the defense. The Iowa State offense had been coming into its own over the past few weeks, while the Sooners' defense had been struggling throughout the past month. But the defense rose up on Saturday, complementing the offensive outburst by holding Iowa State to 334 yards and forcing 10 punts. It was an encouraging performance for a unit that showed flashes of brilliance in the first four weeks of the season before the swoon of the past month.
More than anything, the Sooners gained a lot of confidence on Saturday. Next week Baylor and its high-powered offense comes to Norman and the Sooners will be looking for revenge for last year's embarrassing 41-12 loss to the Bears. The team of the previous month would have had no shot against Baylor, but after Saturday's romp, there's reason to believe the Sooners have figures some things out and could come up with a big win next week.
The Sooners got to that point by going back to the basics over the past two weeks, figuring out strengths and sticking to them. That resulted in the Sooners' most complete performance since the first month of the season, if not the entire year. Sometimes, the basics are all you need.