Oklahoma football: Long-distance runs send Sooners sprinting past Iowa State

OU 48, IOWA STATE 10 — Jalen Saunders' punt return shook Oklahoma out of its slow start. Then running backs Damien Williams and Brennan Clay turned it on with long TD runs that highlighted OU's best rushing output of the Bob Stoops' era.
by Jason Kersey Published: November 16, 2013


photo - Oklahoma's Jalen Saunders (8) returns a punt for a touchdown past Iowa State's Jack Spreen (49) during the college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Iowa State University Cyclones (ISU) at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla. on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma's Jalen Saunders (8) returns a punt for a touchdown past Iowa State's Jack Spreen (49) during the college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Iowa State University Cyclones (ISU) at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla. on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013. Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman

NORMAN — Still reeling from last week's waxing in Waco, Oklahoma fans and players alike started sluggish Saturday.

One-fourth of the student section was empty — along with other specks of seats throughout the stadium — and the Sooners trailed lowly Iowa State for most of the second quarter.

“Very low energy,” said senior center Gabe Ikard. “Most of the team. Most of the fans.”

The Sooners punted on three of their first four possessions, lost quarterback Blake Bell when he took a hit on the first play of the second quarter and appeared poised to take a 10-3 deficit to halftime on Senior Day.

Then Jalen Saunders caught a punt at the Sooner 9-yard line and changed the game.

Saunders slipped between two Cyclones and sprinted away for a 91-yard touchdown 1:09 before halftime. The third longest punt return in OU history helped tied the game and ultimately propelled Oklahoma to a 48-10 victory on Owen Field.

“I felt like it brought a lot of momentum to the offense and the defense,” Saunders said. “After that, things started rolling downhill.”

Damien Williams ran 69 yards for a touchdown two plays into the second half and Oklahoma finished with 405 rushing yards — its most in the Bob Stoops era.

Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said the Cyclones never recovered from Saunders' punt return.

“They were downtrodden in their faces,” Rhoads said. “When you are 1-8 and playing a top-25 team off their feet with great success, and then all of a sudden something like that goes wrong.

“We were an extremely, fittingly, loose and relaxed, ready-to-play team leading up to this game and that is how we played for 29 minutes.”

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by Jason Kersey
OU Sports Reporter
Jason Kersey became The Oklahoman's OU football beat writer in May 2012 after a year covering high school sports and OSU recruiting. Before joining the newspaper in November 2006 as a part-time results clerk, he covered high school football for...
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