2012 AutoZone Liberty
Tulsa 31, Iowa State 17
- 2012-2013 CFN Bowl Central
- CFN Thoughts and Analysis on the AutoZone Liberty Bowl
(AP) MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Tulsa capped one of the greatest seasons in school history by relying on the two strengths that carried the Golden Hurricane all season: running the ball and rushing the passer.
relative to each
5 Highest - 1 Lowest
Trey Watts rushed for 149 yards, Alex Singleton ran for three scores and Tulsa avenged a season-opening loss to Iowa State with a 31-17 victory in the rainy AutoZone Liberty Bowl on Monday.
Tulsa's defense recorded five sacks, forced three turnovers and held Iowa State scoreless over the final three quarters as the Golden Hurricane erased an early 10-point deficit.
"We never wavered, not for a second," said Watts, selected as the game's most valuable player.
The Golden Hurricane (11-3) posted the second 11-win season in school history. Tulsa, which has the smallest enrollment of any Football Bowl Subdivision program, also finished 11-3 in 2008.
Iowa State (6-7) rallied to beat Tulsa 38-23 on Sept. 1, but the Golden Hurricane put together the comeback in the rematch. Tulsa trailed 17-7 at the end of the first quarter.
"They've accomplished something nobody else at Tulsa has done," Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship said. "That's a huge deal for us. We've had a team that won 11 before, so we tied that. We had a team that won the Liberty Bowl before and won Conference USA. We've done that. But we did it all in the same year (this season)."
Both teams had changed quite a bit since that regular-season opener.
Iowa State's Steele Jantz, who threw two touchdown passes and ran for a third score in the season opener, lost his starting job to redshirt freshman Sam Richardson. The Cyclones' leading rusher (Shontrelle Johnson) and top tackler (Jake Knott) from the Sept. 1 game missed the Liberty Bowl with injuries.
Tulsa linebacker Shawn Jackson, a three-year starter, was serving a three-game suspension during the last meeting with Iowa State. Jackson sacked Richardson on consecutive plays late in the first quarter Monday and forced a fumble in the game's closing minutes.
"I felt like I left my guys down (in September)," Jackson said. "I wanted to give the defense a little spark."
After going 6 for 7 for 114 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter, Richardson was 4 of 14 for 15 yards with an interception the rest of the day while battling flu-like symptoms. Jantz replaced Richardson early in the fourth quarter.
"You can't ask much more from a young player like Sam," said Iowa State linebacker A.J. Klein, who tied a Liberty Bowl record with 19 tackles. "He's going to have a great career the rest of his time here at Iowa State. That's the type of people we want to build this program around, people that will give it up, no matter what condition they're in."
Iowa State capitalized on big plays to take an early 17-7 lead in front of a partisan crowd. About 80 percent of the fans were dressed in Iowa State cardinal-and-gold.
After Edwin Arceo capped Iowa State's opening series with a 33-yard field goal, Jeremy Reeves put the Cyclones in front 10-0 with a 31-yard interception return midway through the first quarter.
Tulsa answered with Singleton's 2-yard touchdown dive, but Richardson connected with tight end Ernst Brun for a 69-yard score on Iowa State's ensuing possession.
But after moving the ball at will in the opening period, Iowa State's offense did virtually nothing right the rest of the day.
"Games are often won and lost at the line of scrimmage, and we did not play a physical enough brand of football to move the sticks enough and stay on the field enough to get it in the red zone, let alone get it in the end zone," Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said.
Tulsa took the lead for good with a pair of touchdown runs -- an 8-yarder from quarterback Cody Green and a 2-yarder from Singleton -- in the first four minutes of the second quarter. Tulsa extended the lead to 28-17 in the third quarter on Singleton's 1-yard dive on fourth-and-goal.
The Golden Hurricane's comeback followed a familiar pattern. Tulsa headed into the bowl game ranked third in the nation in sacks (48) and 11th in rushing (240.2).
"These guys are a very tough-minded, physical and resilient team," Blankenship said. "I couldn't be prouder."
Iowa State (6-6) vs. Tulsa (10-3)
Dec. 31, 3:30, ESPN
Here’s The Deal … For those who missed the first meeting between the pair, Iowa State and Tulsa have planned the sequel in Memphis on New Year’s Eve.
The two schools faced off in the opener in Ames in a game won by the Cyclones, 38-23. Since Sept. 1, the schools have traveled down very different paths. The Golden Hurricane has regrouped rather nicely, winning seven straight following the Week 1 loss, and defeating UCF in overtime on Dec. 1 for its first Conference USA title in seven years. The program has now won at least 10 games in four of the last six years. And it has proven that it can thrive under different regimes, from Steve Kragthorpe and Todd Graham to now Bill Blankenship.
Tulsa continues to do a terrific job of maintaining stability, despite living in the long shadow of mighty Oklahoma. Heck, the entire athletic program is in good shape on the field. Away from it, though, the Hurricane is dealing with the ever-changing landscape of realignment and the recent gambling revelations that cost AD Ross Parmley his job, and could have NCAA ramifications. Ultimately, the school could wind up in the Mountain West or Big East, or just stay put. For now, it’s just looking to capture some well-earned Liberty Bowl hardware and win No. 11.
The Cyclones jumped out of the gate with a 3-0 start, including quality wins over Tulsa and in-state rival Iowa, but couldn’t sustain that level of play for three months. They won just three more games the rest of the way, but generally acquitted themselves well against a rugged Big 12 schedule. This will continue to be a program that matches the personality, intensity and blue-collar work-ethic of its head coach, Paul Rhoads. And that has been enough for this to be a plucky, at times dangerous squad.
Bowl games are still meaningful at Iowa State, which has won just three in its history, and has never played a game in January. There’ll be a lot at stake for the Cyclones on Monday, including achieving a winning season, and gaining momentum for 2013. Rhoads, who recently eschewed interest in the Wisconsin opening, likes to use these rare nationally-televised events to showcase his team’s grit and determination to a large audience.
Players to Watch: Iowa State feels it might have a secret weapon in the rematch, redshirt freshman QB Sam Richardson.
Tulsa has already faced the Cyclones, but not Richardson, who was a non-factor until the final two games of the regular season. In those auditions, he threw seven touchdown passes and no picks, while rushing for 162 yards and another score. The rookie will have the benefit of a month of practice, but will also be facing a more dangerous defense than Kansas or West Virginia. Tulsa begins the postseason third nationally in sacks and fourth in stops for loss. This is a huge spot for Richardson, as he tries to emerge as the future on offense in Ames.
The Golden Hurricane doesn’t have just one or two playmaker on defense, which it so much more difficult to neutralize.
Tulsa is talented at every level. In fact, each unit boasts at least two All-Conference USA performers. Ends Jared St. John and Cory Dorris will bring the heat the traditional way. The linebackers, especially versatile senior DeAundre Brown, can make things happen all over the field. And Dexter McCoil and Demarco Nelson form one of the nation’s more underrated safety tandems. If Iowa State is going to keep the chains moving, it best be prepared for the speed, tempo and tenacity that the Hurricane is going to bring to the Liberty Bowl.
One of the sneaky-good games-within-the-game this postseason will pit Tulsa’s three-headed ground game versus the veteran interior of the Iowa State D.
The Golden Hurricane boasts not one, not two, but three backs who’ve rushed for at least 765 yards this fall. Trey Watts is Mr. Dependable, on the doorstep of 1,000 yards to go along with 30 receptions. Ja’Terian Douglas is the homerun hitter, averaging 6.6 yards a carry. And Alex Singleton is the short-yardage thumper, a 260-pounder, with 22 scores. The backs will look to bounce outside in an effort to avoid the NG Jake McDonough and LB A.J. Klein, each of whom was named First Team All-Big 12. LB Jake Knott was also an All-Big 12 first-teamer, but a shoulder injury will force him to serve as a coach this month.
Iowa State will win if … someone other than Richardson is making things happen on the ground.
Richardson is going to make plays outside the pocket, but he’s not going to beat this Tulsa defense on his own. The Golden Hurricane is just too quick and experienced to become befuddled by a crazy-legged rookie. The redshirt freshman is also still developing as a passer, and is flanked by a mediocre corps of receivers headed by Josh Lenz. He’ll have to get support from his own trio of eclectic backs, juniors Shontrelle Johnson, James White and 240-pound Jeff Woody. If Richardson gets caught in a lot of third-and-long situations, it’s going to be bad news for the Cyclones.
Tulsa will win if … it manufactures at least 200 yards rushing.
160. 106. 178. Those were the Hurricane’s three rushing totals in its losses this season. The fourth time it was held below 200 yards rushing, it defeated Fresno State, but just by a point. The three backs are the grease that makes the offense go. Generally speaking, Tulsa rolls on offense whenever spotty QB Cody Green isn’t asked to do too much. The team wants to pound Iowa State back on its heels, especially since Knott will be unavailable this time around. Blankenship is determined to leverage his team’s backfield depth, wearing down the Cyclones in the second half of what figures to be a close game.
What Will Happen: Take two … with a different ending.
Tulsa wants to earn a bowl victory, but it would also like to exact some revenge on Iowa State after being outclassed in the final 45 minutes of the first meeting. Richardson brings hope and excitement for the future, but also not much experience in just his third career start. He’ll have a tough time navigating an athletic and swarming D that has a penchant for big plays. Meanwhile, the Golden Hurricane offense will once again climb on the shoulders of the running backs, whose 200-plus yards on the ground will help spearhead a hard-fought win in Memphis.
CFN Prediction: Tulsa 28 … Iowa State 24
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Pick O/U: 51.5
Liberty Bowl History
2012 Tulsa 31, Iowa State 17
2011 Cincinnati 31, Vanderbilt 24
2010 (Dec.) UCF 10, Georgia 6
2010 Jan.) Arkansas 20, East Carolina 17 OT
Kentucky 25, East Carolina 19
Miss St 10, UCF 3
South Carolina 44, Houston 36
Tulsa 31, Fresno State 24
Louisville 44, Boise State 40
Utah 17, Southern Miss 0
TCU 17, Colorado State 3
Louisville 28, BYU 10
Colorado State 22, Louisville 17
Southern Miss 23, Colorado State 17
Tulane 41, BYU 27
Southern Miss 41, Pitt 7
Syracuse 30, Houston 17
East Carolina 19, Stanford 13
Illinois 30, East Carolina 0
Louisville 18, Michigan State 7
Mississippi 13, Air Force 0
Air Force 38, Mississippi State 15
Air Force 23, Ohio State 11
Mississippi 42, Air Force 29
Indiana 34, South Carolina 10
Georgia 20, Arkansas 17
Tennessee 21, Minnesota 14
Baylor 21, LSU 7
Auburn 21, Arkansas 15
Notre Dame 19, Boston Coll 18
Alabama 21, Illinois 15
Ohio State 21, Navy 28
Purdue 28, Missouri 25
Penn State 9, Tulane 6
Missouri 20, LSU 15
Nebraska 21, North Carolina 17
Alabama 36, UCLA 6
USC 20, Texas A&M 0
Tennessee 7, Maryland 3
NC State 31, Kansas 18
Georgia Tech 31, Iowa State 30
Tennessee 14, Arkansas 13
Tulane 17, Colorado 3
Colorado 47, Alabama 33
Mississippi 34, Virginia Tech 17
NC State 14, Georgia 7
Miami 14, Virginia Tech 7
Mississippi 13, Auburn 7
Utah 32, West Virginia 6
Miss State 16, NC State 12
Oregon State 6, Villanova 0
Syracuse 15, Miami 14
Penn State 41, Oregon 12
Penn State 7, Alabama 0