AMES — Jaylin Noel tried to shoulder too much of the blame.
Sure, the Iowa State sophomore’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that occurred after his fair catch with 9:51 left in the third quarter — and a possible win still within reach — set the Cyclones’ back on on of many doomed drives Saturday against Oklahoma.
But ISU’s wide-ranging travails were on full display in a 27-13 loss to the Sooners at Jack Trice Stadium and no single play, nor penalty, could serve as the reason why the Cyclones’ longest losing skid since 2016 swelled to five games.
“That’s on me,” said Noel, who scored the lone touchdown for ISU (3-5, 0-5). “That’s a dumb decision. I’ve got to be better than that. I would say that’s one of the reasons we lost the game.”
Why’d he draw the flag? He threw the football at an Oklahoma defender after securing a fair catch. It was a frustration play — and that fraught emotional state continues to deepen as the losses pile up.
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“Man, we have to be better,” Cyclone head coach Matt Campbell said. “I know that. I’m not naive. Our consistency must be better if we’re going to get out of this valley and get ourselves back in the win column.”
ISU’s lack of consistency has been the story of this season — as has falling behind by seven or more points in the first half.
The Sooners (5-3, 2-3) entered the game allowing an average of 207 rushing yards per game. Their first four conference foes scored an average of 46.8 points per game. The Cyclones mustered just 66 yards on the ground and once again had to play from behind all day.
“You can write the narrative of the last five games, right?” Campbell said. “You’re down by seven, then the next thing you know you’re playing catch-up and the game’s not playing in your favor, so at times you try to get it going faster, and then sometimes you’re throwing the ball a little bit more. It’s just like, man, I can write the narrative. They’re all the same.”
ISU quarterback Hunter Dekkers notched his second straight 300-yard passing game, but he also scattered three interceptions among his career-high 37 completions and 57 attempts. The last one doomed what could have developed into a game-tying touchdown drive with 5:24 left. Instead, Oklahoma linebacker Danny Stutsman weaved into Dekkers’ preferred passing line, intercepting the ball and returning it 37 yards to the Cyclones’ two-yard line.
Two plays later, Sooner running back Eric Gray surged into the end zone, ensuring, at least, that ISU’s string of four straight one-score losses would be snapped.
“I sound like a broken record, but it’s the inconsistency — our inability to just sustain momentum and create that consistency that you have to do to win the football game,” Campbell said.
The Cyclones’ defense, as always, gave the team a chance. After forcing a three-and-out late in the third quarter, ISU stitched together its only touchdown drive that culminated in Dekkers’ 15-yard pass to Noel on fourth and 12 that made the score 20-13 with 10:29 remaining.
So there was lots of game left, but too many mistakes to ultimately overcome.
“You can’t really sit here and feel sorry for yourself,” said Cyclone linebacker Gerry Vaughn, who recovered a fumble while recording five tackles. “You’ve just got to keep pushing forward and get on to the next game really.”