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OU football: Sooners outlast Iowa State in ugly win after weathering backbreaking loss, flu flare-up

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Pat Fields

Senior safety Pat Fields gets an interception during the final moments of the final home game against Iowa State on Nov. 20.

The #Sooners celebrated Senior Day by skirting the Cyclones in a 28-21 victory. Watch our highlights from the eventful day:

Filmed by Justin Jayne and Collin McDaniel

Edited by Collin McDaniel

Pat Fields bolted toward the Sooners’ sideline, ditched the football he’d just intercepted and sprung into the embrace of Bryan Mead, celebrating another close victory.

Before Fields’ pick, two minutes and 57 seconds remained Saturday in Oklahoma’s game against Iowa State when the Sooners punted. Pressure returned to a defense that found itself on the field for 38 minutes while the Cyclones dominated time of possession.

On Iowa State’s last-chance drive, tight end Charlie Kolar — a Norman native the Sooners notably didn’t recruit — torched OU’s defense with five catches for 79 yards. As 23 seconds remained with the Cyclones at the opposing 21-yard line, Oklahoma’s seven-point lead hung in the balance, providing the Sooners an all too familiar feeling.

Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy looked for Kolar again on the game’s last play, but defensive coordinator Alex Grinch finally decided to double-team the 6-foot-6 behemoth. Purdy’s pass sailed over his other tight end, 6-foot-7 Chase Allen, struck the hand of redshirt senior Justin Broiles and landed in the arms of Fields — a senior safety playing his last game in Norman — with 15 seconds remaining.

“In those situations you go to your playmakers. … We were able to continue to tell each other, in order for us to win this game, someone has to make a play,” said senior safety Delarrin Turner-Yell, who also registered an interception in the game. “Pat made a tremendous play on his last play on the field, and we'll celebrate it today.”

The No. 13 Sooners (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) outlasted Iowa State (6-5, 4-4) 28-21 in their senior day home finale before 82,605 for their sixth one-possession victory in 2021. Nonetheless, a gritty win was an ideal turnaround after OU lost to Baylor last weekend and over 20 players reportedly missed practice on Tuesday and Wednesday due to a flu outbreak.

Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said from Monday to Thursday, his team had to almost entirely change its practice schedule because of a lack of bodies. One day an entire position group was wiped out by illness.

“Really proud of the response of our football team after the loss last week and then had an interesting week of practice, had a couple disruptions that the guys handled,” Riley said. “Again, coming off a loss, you could have kinda said ‘poor me’ and let it pile on and not been ready to play against a really good football team.

“And that wasn't the case. Our guys really took a disjointed week and handled it extremely well, so I'm proud of that, and it was just a complete team win.”

The Sooners’ offense struggled mightily Saturday with Iowa State’s unconventional coverage, amassing a Riley-era low 96 passing yards.

Freshman quarterback Caleb Williams went just 8-for-18 with 87 yards, one touchdown and one interception, though he did break a 74-yard touchdown run on his second play. Since his hand was stepped on against Baylor last weekend, Williams’ performance and composer have slumped.

Oklahoma’s ground game carried it, as redshirt junior running back Kennedy Brooks scampered for 115 yards on 17 carries. Brooks became the 11th player in program history to rush for 3,000 career yards and hinted afterward that Saturday’s game might’ve been his last in Norman. Junior Eric Gray added a 7-yard touchdown rush that gave OU a 28-14 lead in the fourth quarter.

“They run their scheme so well that if you don't run it some, you're gonna be sitting there throwing against drop-eight coverages all day, and that requires a lot of precision,” Riley said. “And today was a day where we were not as precise at times as we needed to be in the throw game, but to be able to run it, that was obviously one of the differentiating factors in the game.”

OU’s “Speed D” was its X-factor, clobbering Purdy for seven quarterback hits and six sacks plus 11 tackles for loss. Senior nose guard Perrion Winfrey established himself early with a bone rattling, first-quarter hit on Purdy. The Cyclones’ passer later went to the locker room in concussion protocol in the third quarter but returned in the fourth.

The biggest play, per Riley, came from one of the Sooners’ other big men. After redshirt junior Nik Bonitto flushed Purdy from the pocket and sophomore Key Lawrence knocked the ball from his hand, 6-foot-2, 280 pound defensive lineman Jalen Redmond scooped it and raced 42 yards for a touchdown return. Redmond’s play gave OU a 14-7 lead at halftime.

“It was a critical, critical play in the game,” defensive coordinator Alex Grinch said. “It’s a momentum play, and probably is a pretty good representation of the lack thereof of our ability to have momentum plays over the course of the year. It’s very, very difficult to play defense in this day and age without those.”

The second-biggest play in Riley’s eyes was a special teams wrinkle. Sophomore receiver Trevon West, who has flashed periodically this season after returning from the transfer portal, made a clutch tackle on OU’s late punt. His effort pinned Iowa State at its 14-yard line to begin what would be its last possession.

That was a welcome sight after the Sooners handed Iowa State a first down on a fourth quarter fake punt. Iowa State still threatened thanks to Kolar’s unstoppable drive before Fields’ pick sealed the victory.

“As a defense, if we're in that position, we wouldn't want it any other way,” said redshirt senior defensive lineman Isaiah Thomas. “We like the pressure, because ‘pressure is a privilege’ like I always say, and it's because we have goals and expectations that other teams don't have.

“If we blow a team out, by all means, let’s blow a team out, but if not, we're prepared for the situation. We got the guys and we got the mentality to attack and affect the game and I’d rather take the ugly win than the pretty win, in my opinion.”

Dead ahead, OU faces No. 9 Oklahoma State (9-1, 6-1) in Stillwater, needing a win to clinch a Big 12 Championship Game berth and sustain any College Football Playoff aspirations. Oklahoma would clinch a spot ahead of Bedlam if Baylor loses to Kansas State on Saturday evening.

Asked afterward about the disappointment some might feel in the Sooners’ performance this season despite their one loss standing, Riley took a moment to collect himself before answering.

“We just win. … We’ve had disappointing moments in this season, sure,” Riley said tersely. “We’re 10-1. Go pass that along to anybody else and see what they think about that.”

Sports editor

Mason Young is the OU Daily's sports editor and covers OU football. He was previously assistant sports editor and has covered women's gym, wrestling and former Sooners in the NFL. Email Mason at masyoung@ou.edu and follow him on Twitter @Mason_Young_0

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