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OU football: Lincoln Riley, Sooners remember bounce back season after Iowa State loss

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Lincoln Riley

OU coach Lincoln Riley after the game against West Virginia Oct. 19.

Ronnie Perkins got home just in time to see the Cyclones run away with the lead.

Then just a recruit, Perkins missed the majority of Oklahoma’s 38-31 loss to Iowa State in October 2017. Around the fourth quarter, Perkins returned to his home in St. Louis after a high school game, and he tuned in to see Iowa State quarterback Kyle Kempt throw a 25-yard fade to wide receiver Allen Lazard over Oklahoma cornerback Jordan Thomas for a touchdown with 2:19 left in regulation.

The extra point was good, and the Cyclones, who forced a turnover on downs on the next Sooner drive, ran down the clock on Owen Field in front of a crowd that was crimson and cream. The unranked underdogs, led by then-second-year head coach Matt Campbell, had upset No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman. Perkins got a text from OU defensive line coach Calvin Thibodeaux soon after.

“I remember Coach Thibodeaux texting me after the game like, ‘Man, it’s just a game. Don’t feel no different about it,'” Perkins said. “I was kind of shocked. I really was. It was kind of shocking, but it’s college football. That’s what happens ... It’s part of the game.”

On Oct. 29 of the same year, Perkins verbally committed to the Sooners, who by that point were already three games into an eight-game win streak to crawl back into College Football Playoff contention, before falling short to Georgia in the Rose Bowl. First-year head coach Lincoln Riley orchestrated a comeback in the AP poll that saw wins over three ranked opponents and a Big 12 Championship win after suffering one of the most shocking upsets in program history.

“If you judge by that team that year, we handled (the loss) pretty darn good,” Riley said. “We haven’t had many losses around here in the past few years, but we’ve handled most of them pretty well, I think.”

Iowa State (5-3, 3-2 Big 12) returns to Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Saturday to face a 7-1 Oklahoma team that is just coming off a loss to Kansas State, another shocking defeat for an Oklahoma team that looked poised to go undefeated with quarterback Jalen Hurts in the backfield and first-year defensive coordinator Alex Grinch on the sideline. Falling short in Manhattan, Kansas, is a reminder that losing is a numbing, unfamiliar feeling in the Lincoln Riley era.

“Every loss at OU is shocking. It hits you different. It hits you hard. (Kansas State) was no different,” Riley said during the bye week. “The opportunities after are no different, either. It’s a chance for us to really rally as a team.”

What separates the loss to the Wildcats from the one against Iowa State in 2017 is the immediate response. Right after the Sooners got off the plane after leaving Manhattan, Hurts led a full-team meeting in the airport, and everyone listened to the former national champion.

“I definitely feel like the guys have that sense of urgency,” junior linebacker Kenneth Murray said on Monday. “I definitely do feel like this year’s different, and I definitely feel it’s more different in a more positive way.”

Campbell and the Cyclones will head back to Norman for the first time since the 2017 loss with a fairly different team. Kempt has been replaced by sophomore quarterback Brock Purdy, who has tallied 2,567 passing yards and 15 touchdowns. The team ranks No. 16 in total offense, with 479.5 yards of total offense per game.

The Cyclones are unranked with three losses, but that didn’t mean anything in 2017, when they were 2-2 heading into Norman.

“I know they want to come back and win again,” Perkins said. “I know the older guys who did play in that game  they still got a little chip on their shoulder.”

Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. CT Saturday, Nov. 9 on FOX.

Correction: This post was updated at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 6 to reflect the correct spelling of former Iowa State player Allen Lazard's name. 

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Caleb McCourry is the assistant sports editor at The Daily and is a junior at OU majoring in English. He's covered football, basketball and volleyball. 

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