Oklahoma Sooners look to slow down Cyclones' Joel Lanning

Stopping sophomore quarterback a priority for Oklahoma

Since Joel Lanning took over at quarterback for Iowa State, the Cyclones have outscored opponents 51-10, including a 24-point shutout win against Texas last week.

He stepped into the Cyclones’ loss to Baylor in the middle of the second quarter with Iowa State down 35 points. Things have been different for Iowa State ever since – although the sample size is still very small.

“He’s a very poised player,” Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said of Lanning. “He finds his way around the pocket. . . . He’s good with the ball, the quarterback run game.”

If that sounds familiar, then you and Stoops are on the same wavelength. Stoops immediately compared Lanning’s ability to run and extend plays to Texas and Jerrod Heard, especially when coupled with starting running back Mike Warren.

Iowa State hasn’t won more than two games in Big 12 Conference play since the 2012 season. Nothing is different about the team in general, and Stoops said it’s not hard to play against a quarterback who has minimal film because the offense doesn’t change.

Still, the last two times this scenario has presented itself, Heard and Patrick Mahomes last year had big games against the Sooners. But Oklahoma was away from Memorial Stadium.

“We’ll see, in this environment, if he can make those same plays,” Stoops said. “We have to make sure we do our job keeping him in the pocket, getting him in some uncomfortable situations. That’s always key to defense. If you let them control the line of scrimmage and run the football and get into manage situations all the time then we’re playing on their terms.”

Through a little more than six quarters, Lanning’s efficiency puts him sixth in the conference. It’s his ability with his legs that scare Oklahoma. In just one start, he’s third on the team in rushing yards.

“We are gonna have to be good against the run, whether it’s him running it or the running back,” Stoops said.

That is the main battle this weekend. Here’s a quick look at a few other key spots:

When Oklahoma has the ball. . .

Iowa State defensive end Dale Pierson vs. Sooners’ freshman tackle Orlando Brown

This is the final pre-test for Brown, who has shown an exponential growth at left tackle through his first eight games as a starter. Pierson presents plenty of challenges though. He’s tied for second in the conference with 6.5 sacks this season – second only to Oklahoma State’s Emmanuel Ogbah, who will be Brown’s final exam.

Before that, Brown will get Shawn Oakman and potentially TCU’s Josh Carraway. This week, it’s Pierson – a redshirt senior who will without a doubt be craft as well as athletic. After a stint in junior college, the 6-foot-2, 249-pound rush end is in his first full year as as starter.

Baker Mayfield vs. the Cyclones’ secondary

Through the first five games of the Big 12 season, Mayfield has only faced one secondary better than Iowa State’s, and against Texas, he threw for only 211 yards – and it wasn’t because Oklahoma was dominating on the ground. He set a season-low with only one touchdown pass in the game.

This is a good test for Mayfield and the Oklahoma passing attack, which will face three of the top four secondaries the rest of the season. The Sooners are still at the top of the conference in that category.

Iowa State isn’t going to force many turnovers (4 interceptions this year) to make it very hard on Mayfield to complete passes (60.2 completion percentage against), but the Cyclones will make him earn every yard.

When Iowa State has the ball. . .

Jordan Thomas vs. Allen Lazard

Individually, Lazard is Iowa State’s best weapon. The 6-foot-5 target is only in his second year on campus but has been a key weapon for the Cyclones in both seasons.

On pace for 54 receptions and more than 700 yards in an offense that also has one of the top running backs in the league, Lazard will need to be accounted for on every play. Thomas is most likely to draw the assignment over Dakota Austin. Against Austin, Lazard would have nearly an eight-inch advantage.

Thomas at least closes that gap a little bit, but look for Oklahoma to provide safety help over the top for much of the day.

Iowa State ground game vs. Oklahoma’s front seven-ish

Mike Warren was almost a Sooner. And if Joe Mixon hadn’t come to Norman, he just might have been. In either case, he’s off to a stellar sophomore season – ranked second in the league in rushing and seventh in all-purpose yards despite catching just eight passes.

Oklahoma’s run defense was worthy against Kansas, but it’ll be another test against the Cyclones, who are averaging 186.2 yards per game.

With Jordan Evans and Devante Bond back in play for Oklahoma, it’ll be interesting how defensive coordinator Mike Stoops rotates his linebackers.

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