Iowa State (0-2) at Tulsa (1-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, September 26, 7:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: H.A. Chapman Stadium (30,000) -- Tulsa, Oklahoma. Television: Fox Sports 1. Home Record: ISU 0-2, Tulsa 1-0. Away Record: ISU 0-0, Tulsa 0-2. Neutral Record: ISU 0-0, Tulsa 0-0. Conference Record: ISU 0-0, Tulsa 0-0. Series Record: Iowa State leads, 2-1.
GAME NOTES: The Iowa State Cyclones look to avenge their loss in the 2012 Liberty Bowl on Thursday when they visit H.A. Chapman Stadium for a non- conference tilt against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane.
After suffering a 38-23 loss to the Cyclones in Ames in last season's opener, Tulsa earned a 31-17 decision over ISU in the postseason to even the score. ISU holds a 2-1 lead in the all-time series, having won the only previous meeting between the schools, 27-6, during the 1961 season in Tulsa.
Paul Rhoads has not collected a win in his fifth season at the helm of the Cyclones' program after dropping a pair of games at home to FCS opponent Northern Iowa (28-20) and rival Iowa (27-21) to begin the year. ISU is 8-12 in away games under Rhoads. It won its last six regular season-non conference games before the rough start to the 2013 season.
Tulsa also had last week off following its 51-20 loss at Oklahoma on Sept. 14. Bill Blankenship's team is 1-2 on the season, having lost to Bowling Green (34-7) in its opener before notching a 30-27 victory over Colorado State. Tulsa still owns a seven-game winning streak at H.A. Chapman Stadium with both losses occurring on the road. Now in his third season as the Golden Hurricane's coach, Blankenship has a 20-10 career record.
ISU began to show signs of promise on the offensive side of the ball against Iowa, but it was too little too late. The Cyclones scored all 21 of their points during the final 21 minutes of action, but they eventually lost a battle with the clock. Quarterback Sam B. Richardson was went 22-of-39 for 260 yards with three touchdowns to two interceptions in the loss. The first-time starter has already thrown for five scores through the first two games of the season. Richardson is also ISU's leading rusher with 86 yards on 29 attempts. Richardson is dealing with an undisclosed injury and is listed as probable for Thursday. If he cannot play, freshman Grant Rohach will see action under center.
Quenton Bundrage caught all three of the touchdown passes against the Hawkeyes and finished with a team-high 146 yards on seven catches. The Cyclones have had a wideout reach the 100-yard mark in three straight games. Justin Coleman led ISU the week before with 103 yards on four receptions.
Seven different players made their first collegiate start on the defensive side of the ball for the Cyclones in their opener, which was the most of any Big 12 program. The inexperience was evident right away as UNI racked up 23 first downs and 457 yards of total offense. ISU held the Hawkeyes to 378 yards from scrimmage, but 218 came on the ground and they also moved the chains 21 times. Jacques Washington has paced the group with 22 total stops. Jeremiah George tallied 13 stops in the loss to Iowa.
ISU's rush defense will be put to the test by Tulsa's Trey Watts, who contributed 60 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries against Oklahoma. The senior tailback has had a very productive career for the Golden Hurricane with 2,406 rushing yards and 913 receiving yards already. Despite Watts's presence in the backfield, Tulsa has averaged only 340.3 yards of total offense and 19 points per game. The offensive production has been disappointing for an offense that was very successful in 2012, producing 457.1 total yards and 34.7 ppg.
Cody Green needs to improve his play for Tulsa to have a chance of repeating as Conference USA champion. The senior quarterback has completed only 51.3 percent of his pass attempts for 610 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Jordan James has made 12 catches for a team-high 198 yards. Watts leads Tulsa with 18 receptions and is second with 156 yards.
Green could use a little help from his defense. Tulsa is giving up 426 yards and 37.3 ppg. All three of the Golden Hurricane's opponents had success on the ground and Oklahoma gained 413 through the air in their last appearance. The Sooners went 12-of-16 on third-down conversions after BGSU and CSU went a combined 7-of-30 in Tulsa's previous two contests. Sophomore defensive back Michael Mudoh is off to a hot start with 35 total stops and an interception. Shawn Jackson has registered 4.5 tackles for loss.
Tulsa's home winning streak will not last very long if Green fails to take the defensive focus off Watts. Although they still lack any sense of consistency, the Golden Hurricane have shown flashes of potential. Meanwhile, the Cyclones began to gain steam late in their bout with the Hawkeyes. Richardson will continue to develop as the season goes along. He is talented enough to lead ISU to the win, however the defense will have to contain Watts to make that possible.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Iowa State 31, Tulsa 28
09/25 10:31:52 ET