NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — If recent history is an indicator, Oklahoma is about to go on a run.
Oklahoma has won 17 consecutive November games dating to 2014. The annual late-season surges have fueled four consecutive Big 12 titles and three College Football Playoff berths. The Sooners (7-1, 4-1 Big 12) have been so good this time of year that they call it "Championship November."
Oklahoma hopes to keep it going Saturday against Iowa State (5-3, 3-2).
"Just being excited for the opportunity, being excited to play and just really going out there and taking advantage of every opportunity — I think that's really the most important thing," Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray said. "And I think that's what we've done great in the past and what we're going to continue to do this November,".
The ninth-ranked Sooners head into the month trying to recover from an upset loss to Kansas State Oct. 26. They are coming off a bye week filled with spirited practices.
"A lot of sense of urgency, to be honest," Murray said. "I think that's the biggest thing for us — that sense of urgency. Getting back to being who we are and getting back to basics. Just really focusing on what we need to do as a defense to be successful. If I can put one term on what the practices have been like, it's urgency."
Oklahoma's late-season surges have been fueled by Heisman-caliber quarterbacks, a strong running game and an opportunistic defense.
The Sooners once again have the Heisman-caliber quarterback in Jalen Hurts. The dual threat leads the nation in passer efficiency rating and ranks third with 7.8 yards per carry.
In the past, running backs such as Samaje Perine, Joe Mixon and Rodney Anderson, and more recently, current backs Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks — have been especially tough to stop late in the season. Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said the Sooners will need the same from Sermon, Brooks, Rhamondre Stevenson and T.J. Pledger to get through this month unscathed.
"Those guys are probably the freshest group of backs in the country going into this Championship November," Riley said. "And that's when you typically need those guys the most."
Oklahoma's defense has struggled in recent years, but it has performed just well enough at the end. For most of this season, Oklahoma's defense has been good — the Sooners lead the Big 12 in total defense and pass defense in Big 12 play.
The Sooners have added motivation after slipping against Kansas State. Oklahoma hadn't allowed more than 31 points in a game before falling apart against the Wildcats.
"We need to do the things well that we did the first seven, and we did a lot of things well," Riley said. "We got off the field, especially in the long-yardage situations and then we've got to create some turnovers."
The Sooners believe they will bounce back with championships at stake. They believe if they win the Big 12, they will at least be under consideration for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
"It's chance for us to really rally as a team," Riley said. "We know the opportunities that are in front of us. We know what we can do if we play our style of ball and play to the level that we expect regardless of what the expectations are on the outside. That's been our primary focus throughout the week and will be throughout the rest of the year."
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