Carlson: Why OSU football can thank a first-quarter blitz for changing game against Iowa State
STILLWATER — Brock Purdy took the snap with the goal line in view and a couple of his favorite targets, Iowa State’s big tight ends, split out wide.
A pretty good situation for the Cyclones.
A pretty bad one for Oklahoma State.
But almost before Purdy had a chance to look to his left and see if those tight ends were open, the Cyclone quarterback was faced with a different view — Malcolm Rodriguez barreling untouched toward him.
Purdy panicked, dumped off the ball to no one and drew an intentional grounding penalty.
That play changed the game.
OSU 24, Iowa State 21.
On a day the Cowboys had to survive a late Cyclone rally and recover a last-minute onside kick, it might seem crazy that a first-quarter play changed everything. There were big runs by Chuba Hubbard and Spencer Sanders, big catches by Tylan Wallace and Jelani Woods, big defensive plays by Trace Ford and Kolby Harvell-Peel and Tre Sterling.
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But there was nothing bigger than that quarterback hurry by Rodriguez.
Great call by Cowboy defensive coordinator Jim Knowles.
Great execution by Rodriguez.
“It was just both linebackers blitzing A gap, so we knew one of us was gonna come free,” Rodriguez said. “It happened to be me, so I just ended up putting pressure on.”
It swung the momentum — and was a sign of things to come.
First, the momentum swing.
The Cowboys had a rocky start to the game. Their first three offensive possessions were not ideal.
Missed field goal. Interception. Punt.
Even though they moved the ball pretty well on the first and third possessions, not having any points to show for it wasn’t ideal. And it was particularly hard with Iowa State scoring quickly after that interception, then threatening to score again after the punt.
Iowa State had started deep on its own end of the field after the punt, but the Cyclones were in the red zone only four plays later, largely because of a 70-yard Breece Hall run.
On third and 6, Knowles brought the blitz on Purdy.
“Looking back on it, I probably should’ve done it more,” Knowles said of blitzing. “Purdy is such a threat when he scrambles. I think he’s an NFL quarterback, than they have the big targets down the field and it’s hard to cover them for a long time.”
Knowles dialed up the pressure on that play, and it paid off. It pushed back the Cyclones 13 yards on the grounding penalty. Instead of attempting a 35-yard field goal, they had a 48-yard try.
It missed wide left.
Three plays later, the Cowboys scored.
It was at least a 10-point swing, maybe even a 14-point swing had Purdy found one of his targets for a touchdown.
What’s more, it sparked more blitzes and more pressure from the Cowboy defense. It came from everywhere. The defensive line with guys like Trace Ford and Brandon Evers. The linebackers, Calvin Bundage and Rodriguez. The secondary, too.
The Cowboys kept Purdy guessing.
“He’s hard to corral,” Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said. “If you make a mistake, he’ll dip out and under like he did on the touchdown at the end of the game. And it’s difficult to blitz him and pressure him because of his ability to make people miss and get out in the open, but we knew we had to (get pressure on him).”
And the Cowboys did.
OSU finished the day with three sacks and four quarterback hurries, but the Cowboys got to Purdy more than that. You could see that he wasn’t comfortable in the pocket, dancing around a bit, rarely seeming at ease.
He finished the day only 19 of 34 for 162 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
“Our guys were relentless and were able to get enough (pressure) on him at times to keep us in the game and keep his feet from getting set in the pocket,” Gundy said.
It started with Malcolm Rodriguez’s blitz.
A year ago, he had an interception return for a touchdown in OSU’s win at Iowa State. What he did Saturday wasn’t as dramatic but was every bit as important.
It swung the momentum.
It changed the game.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or email@example.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.