Oklahoma rode three rushing touchdowns from freshman quarterback Blake Bell to a 31–14 victory over Iowa in the 23rd Cactus Bowl. The Sooners’ defense held the Hawkeyes scoreless for three quarters while methodically building a 21–0 lead on Bell’s first two scores — both four-yard runs — and a three-yard pass from quarterback Landry Jones, Oklahoma’s all-time passing leader, to tight end Trent Ratterree.
OU defensive back Jamell Fleming set the table for the Sooners’ first touchdown with a pass interception and 21-yard return that placed the ball at Iowa’s five-yard line following a personal foul penalty against Iowa. Two plays later, Oklahoma seized the game’s momentum when Bell rumbled into the end zone for the first time.
Iowa rallied on two short fourth-quarter touchdown passes from quarterback James Vandenberg to tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz (five yards) and RB Jordan Canzeri (nine yards) to cut OU’s lead to 21–14 with 6:56 remaining to play.
But the Sooners answered with 10 points on their next two possessions — freshman all-American kicker Mike Hunnicutt’s 35-yard field goal and Bell’s third scoring run, a 21-yard jaunt — to secure the victory.
Oklahoma’s normally prolific offense gained only 275 total yards while Iowa’s short-handed running game managed just 76 rushing yards.
OU won its 27th bowl game to tie Penn State for third in the nation and earned its 33rd 10-win season, tops in the nation. The loss snapped Iowa’s school-record three-game bowl winning streak.
Sooner punter Tress Way equaled the Cactus Bowl record with a 67-yard boomer in the first quarter. Bell finished the season with 13 team-leading touchdowns as he carved a niche as the “Bell-dozer” in short-yardage situations near the opponent goal line.
Both teams departed Arizona with 1–1 Cactus Bowl records.
Oklahoma’s Cactus Bowl appearance was its fourth trip to Arizona in a six-year span after earning berths in the 2007–08 and ’11 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl games.
The crowd of 54,247 eclipsed the Cactus Bowl attendance record of 53,453 set one year earlier when Iowa defeated 12th-ranked Missouri 27–24.