Iowa St.-Tulsa Preview
Tulsa has a chance to match its single-season wins record when
it makes its eighth bowl appearance in 10 years. The Golden
Hurricane’s upcoming opponent, however, could make that very
Iowa State beat the eventual Conference USA champions in this
season’s opener and heads into the Liberty Bowl on Monday motivated
to finish with a winning record for the first time in three
Tulsa (10-3) won 11 games for the only time in program history
in 2008, but it gave itself an opportunity to tie that mark with an
overtime victory over Central Florida in the conference title game
Dec. 1. Alex Singleton’s school-record 41st career touchdown, a
1-yard dive, gave the Golden Hurricane their first C-USA
championship since they won the inaugural game in 2005.
“It certainly gives you momentum. You want to go into bowl
season with a win,” coach Bill Blankenship said. “We’re excited to
be going to Memphis. That’s big time.”
A rematch with Iowa State may also be appealing after the
Cyclones (6-6) rallied from an early deficit for a 38-23 home win
over Tulsa on Sept. 1.
The Golden Hurricane led 16-7 after the opening quarter of that
game but Iowa State took command by scoring the next 24 points.
Shontrelle Johnson ran for a career-high 120 yards and a touchdown
in that victory while Steele Jantz passed for two TDs.
Johnson, though, didn’t gain more than 73 yards in any of his
next 11 games and is out for this one after injuring his right knee
in a practice earlier this month.
Jantz, meanwhile, was replaced by freshman Sam Richardson during
a 51-23 victory at Kansas on Nov. 17, which made Iowa State bowl
eligible for the third time in coach Paul Rhoads’ four seasons.
The Cyclones defeated Minnesota in the 2009 Insight Bowl to
finish 7-6. They were 6-7 last season after losing to Rutgers in
the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.
“This is a football team that’s been very driven. We’ve had zero
motivational problems in all 12 weeks,” Rhoads said. “Their
reaction to this bowl bid and the opportunity to play Tulsa was
ecstatic. They’re excited to be playing football in December.
“The expectations in this program from day one are to win bowl
Iowa State, though, doesn’t head into this bowl game with much
momentum, having lost five of seven after a 4-1 start that included
an upset at then-No. 15 TCU on Oct. 6.
After going 23 of 27 for 250 yards and four touchdowns against
Kansas, Richardson completed only 13 of 31 passes for 162 yards –
in part to due to blustery conditions – in a 31-24 loss to West
Virginia on Nov. 23, although he did connect on three TDs and run
for 119 yards.
Tulsa junior quarterback Cody Green, a transfer from Nebraska,
has nine of his 20 total touchdowns over the last four games, and
the Golden Hurricane also feature a trio of potent running
Singleton, Trey Watts and Ja’Terian Douglas each have topped 760
yards this season for one of the nation’s top ground attacks (240.2
yards per game). Watts has a team-best 959 yards and Douglas has
857, while Singleton has scored 22 touchdowns.
Iowa State likely won’t have three-time All-Big 12 linebacker
and captain Jake Knott to help stop those runners as he’s
recovering from shoulder surgery.
The Cyclones have the 113th-ranked pass defense in the FBS,
allowing 279.7 yards per game, but they held Tulsa to 198 and
intercepted two of Green’s 49 attempts.
Iowa State will try to force some more turnovers while earning
its third win in five bowl games. The Cyclones are 3-8 all-time in
the postseason, including a 31-30 loss to Georgia Tech in the 1972
Tulsa had a three-game bowl win streak snapped last year with a
24-21 defeat to BYU in the Armed Forces Bowl. After winning the
C-USA title in 2005, the Golden Hurricane defeated Fresno State
31-24 in the Liberty Bowl.