Iowa State (6-6) vs. Tulsa (10-3)|
Monday, December 31, 3:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: After kicking off the 2012 season with one another, the Tulsa
Golden Hurricane and Iowa State Cyclones will close things out as they meet in
this year's Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee.
"There's no question that Iowa State is well-coached and obviously, like us,
have gone through transition since we met in the season opener," said Tulsa's
head coach Bill Blankenship. "Iowa State has tremendous talent on their
football team and played an excellent schedule in the Big XII Conference."
Iowa State began the season with a 38-23 victory over Tulsa and added two more
victories over Iowa (9-6) and Western Illinois (37-3), but it went 3-6 in Big
12 action to finish at the .500 mark with a 6-6 overall record. Coach Paul
Rhoads guided the team to a few impressive decisions over Baylor (35-21) and
TCU (37-23) and it came up just short in its regular-season finale versus West
Blankenship's unit rebounded from its season-opening loss to the Cyclones by
winning seven in a row before suffering a hard-fought road loss at Arkansas
(19-15). The Golden Hurricane then won their next two games over Houston
(41-7) and UCF (23-21) before losing to the inspired and now Hawaii Bowl
champion SMU Mustangs (35-27) in the regular-season finale. Tulsa bounced back
to down UCF in the Conference USA Championship game by six points in an
overtime thriller to repeat as league champions. Blankenship was named the C-
USA Coach of the Year after leading the program to a 10-3 record which
included an 8-1 mark in league action and a perfect 6-0 display at home.
This will be the third meeting in history between these program on the
football field. Iowa State also won the first encounter in 1961. Tulsa is also
scheduled to face the Cyclones in the fourth week of the 2013 season as well.
Tulsa is one of the few teams from the C-USA that relies on its rushing attack
for production. It is hard to argue with the results as the Golden Hurricane
rank 11th in the FBS in rushing offense (240.3 ypg) and third in the
conference in scoring offense (35 ppg). The team racked up an average of 500
yards per contest over its last four outings.
Tulsa's smash-mouth style features a stable of talented rushers, whose
different styles continuously keep opposing defenses guessing.
"They are over 3,000 yards rushing on the season," said Rhoads. "This is a
very talented group and they have different styles to go along with those
Ja'Terian Douglas (857 yards, seven TDs) and Trey Watts (959 yards, three TDs)
have both shown off speed, vision, and elusiveness when handed the ball to
kick the offense into higher gear. Alex Singleton (187 carries, 761 yards) is
not as explosive as his co-workers in the backfield, but his bruising rushing
style has yielded 21 rushing touchdowns and an average of 10.2 points scored
With a run-first offense, Cody Green accepted the role of game manager for the
majority of the season. However, the junior QB has evolved into more of a
threat late in the season including 413 yards passing at SMU. Green enters
the bowl game with 2,499 yards, 17 TDs, and 10 interceptions with a 54.5
percent completion rate.
Sophomore wideout Keyarris Garrett made three touchdown receptions versus UCF
to go along with a career-high 130 yards in the first matchup against the
Knights. He then added 138 yards total on 12 receptions in the regular-season
finale and C-USA Championship to bring his season total to 826 yards and nine
TDs on 64 catches.
The Tulsa defensive unit is the best from the C-USA with only 353.9 yards
allowed and is second to UCF with only 24.2 points given up per contest. The
unit has made big plays in the backfield consistently with 104 tackles for
loss, 48 sacks, and 24 total takeaways.
DeAundre Brown has been one of the best linebackers in the country, filling up
the stat sheet with 125 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, nine sacks, and an
interception. Senior DL Jared St. John is the team's leader with 11.5 sacks
and Dexter McCoil will be looking to add to his team-best total of four
ISU was inconsistent on the offensive side of the ball this season as it
scored over 30 points five times but was held to 21 or less on five separate
occasions. Overall, the Cyclones averaged 25.2 points and 371.2 yards of total
Freshman quarterback Sam Richardson took over the offense in the closing weeks
of the season and gave ISU a glimpse of its bright future. The rookie passer
did not start against Kansas, but came in to complete 23-of-27 attempts for
250 yards and four scores. The following week he went 13-of-31 for 162 yards
and three TDs, but made up for his poor accuracy by gaining 119 yards on 18
Senior wideout Josh Lenz led the Cyclones with 48 yards on four catches with a
score versus WVU. Lenz tallied team-high totals of 430 yards and six scores on
29 receptions. ISU has a very deep receiving corps as 10 different players
have at least 100 yards and the same number have made at least one touchdown
The ISU rushing attack revolves around Shontrelle Johnson (504 yards, 115
carries) and James White (469 yards, 89 carries). Johnson's only 100-yard
performance this season came versus Tulsa in the opener.
Defensively, the Cyclones allowed 444.8 yards of total offense per contest to
their opposition, which ranked 98th in the FBS. However, they only gave up
23.3 points per game, which was the 36th best mark in the country.
Senior linebacker A.J. Klein was the heart and soul of the defensive unit with
98 total tackles and a interception which he returned for a touchdown.
"He (A.J. Klein) will be prepared to play both places because this is a team
that has ran the ball extremely well and utilized more two back offensive
sets," said Rhoads. "There's great potential for him and Jeremiah (George) to
be on the field at the same time."
George is second on the squad with 83 total tackles. Durrell Givens and
Jacques Washington tied for the team-lead with three interceptions each.
Although ISU downed Tulsa by 15 points to begin the 2012 season, it will find
it much more difficult to do so to close the year. The Golden Hurricane have
shown the ability to produce with their elite rushing attack, while limiting
opposing offenses to minimal gains. The Cyclones need a big-time performance
out of their rookie passer to avoid a losing record.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Tulsa 34, Iowa State 28
12/31 15:06:27 ET