Tulsa 31 ISU 17
Iowa State played Tulsa in the 54th installment of the Liberty Bowl and lost a very disappointing game, 31-17. A crowd of 53,687 fans were in the stadium and about 25,000 of those fans were wearing cardinal and gold. The Cyclone fans certainly outnumbered the Golden Hurricane fans.
It was an underachieving end to an overall very good season. It left the Cyclones with a losing 6-7 record for the second consecutive season. As much progress as the team seemed to make this year, the overall record did not reflect that.
So what went wrong? Simply put, Iowa State played a good first quarter and then nothing for the last three-quarters. When I say nothing, I mean NOTHING. This will put it into perspective. In the first quarter, the Cyclones had 4 first downs, 105 yds of offense, and scored 17 points. In the final three-quarters, the Cyclones had 5 first downs, 163 yds of offense and scored 0 points.
The Cyclones had 268 yds of offense (98 yds rushing, 170 yds passing) while the Golden Hurricanes had 410 yds of offense (317 yds rushing, 93 yds passing). Tulsa ran 83 plays on offense to only 56 plays on offense for the Cyclones. Tulsa had a huge advantage in time of possession. Tulsa held the ball for 35:32, while the Cyclones only had the ball for 24:28. The Cyclones only had the ball on offense for just over 7 minutes for the entire second half. The Cyclone offense had the ball more in the first quarter than it did the entire second half.
We simply could not convert on third down. We were 2 for 14 on 3rd down conversions. That is 14.2% We had way too many 3 and outs on the field. We had almost no sustained drives, while our defense allowed Tulsa to have sustained drives of 75, 41, and 59 yds.
Not too hard to figure out why we lost this game like we did. They ran the ball and we didn’t. They stopped our run and we couldn’t stop theirs. They controlled the clock. When we needed the ball in the clutch to score at the end, we couldn’t get our defense off the field. They tackled well and we really struggled tackling them. Life was missing from our team for the last 3 quarters and that was very disappointing to see. We are a better team than what we showed.
On offense, the Cyclones came out very strong. On their first drive on offense, they had a 9 play, 56 yd drive that ended with a Arceo FG of 33 yds. Jeremy Reeves then jumped an out pass and returned it 31 yds for a TDs. It was a great play. We then came back on offense and Sam Richardson connected with TE Ernst Brun for a 69 yd TD pass. The Cyclones seemed like they were in business. Then nothing. That was it. We didn’t do anything the rest of the game.
I was most disappointed with our offensive line. They have been real inconsistent this season and this was not a very good game for them. They did not block well enough for us to establish our running game and that really hurt us. At the beginning of the game we were able to gain good yardage on first down and kept the downs and distances very manageable. In the last three-quarters of the game, this was not the case and it really hurt us. Our offense is pretty effective when we can run the ball, but if we struggle running the ball, the offense struggles. That is exactly what happened. We have to improve at run blocking. Overall, our line showed a real lack of physical play and did nothing to dominate the line of scrimmage. Our line also gave up 5 sacks and allowed way too much pressure on our QBs. Offensive line improvement next season will be crucial to having a successful season next year.
Sam Richardson got the start at QB and despite being down with flu-like symptoms, started the game very well. Sam completed 6 of his first 7 passes for 114 yds. He did wear down though and looked very average after that. He ended up going 10 for 21 passing for 129 yds, 1 TD and 1 INT. It was Sam’s first INT of his career. Sam also rushed the ball 10 times for 46 yds. To try to add some spark to our anemic offense, Steele Jantz was inserted into the game in the second half. Jantz was 4 for 7 passing the ball for 41 yds. He threw no TDs and 1 INT. Jantz also ran the ball 4 times for 6 yds. His final performance as a Cyclone was average at best.
We were without starting RB Shontrelle Johnson, which hurt, but our rushing game as a whole was very lackluster. In addition to 14 rushes for 52 yds by our quarterbacks, James White ran the ball 10 times for 36 yds and Jeff Woody ran the ball twice for 8 yds. We finished the game with 98 total rushing yards, which just doesn’t get it done. We definitely have to improve in this area.
Our WRs played a very average game. Other than starting TE Ernst Brun who had 4 catches for 102 yds, the rest of the WRs didn’t do much to make a difference in this game. Brun would have to be considered the offensive MVP for this game. Josh Lenz had 2 catches for 29 yds, Tiller had one catch for 16 yds, West had 2 catches for 12 yds, Young had one catch for 8 yds, and Aaron Horne had one catch for 5 yds. Not a very inspiring performance.
Our defense played a very average game. We really struggled tackling in this game and game up way too many yards after contact. Tulsa ran the ball very effectively and had the defense on their heels most of the game. Tulsa averaged 5.3 yds every time they ran the ball. That is way too much. We did not get enough pressure on their QB and got 0 sacks. Cody Green, the QB who transferred from Nebraska, passed for 11 for 23 for 93 yds, 0 TD and 1 INT. Green also ran the ball 10 times for 58 yds.
Our defense made the Tulsa RBs look very good. RB Watts rushed the ball 25 times for 149 yds, which is a 6.0 yd per carry average. It earned him MVP honors for the bowl game. Douglas added 8 carries for 79 yds rushing for 9.9 yds per carry. Way too many yds given up in the running game.
I thought that the DL performed very poorly in this game. They did not control the line of scrimmage and allowed the Tulsa offensive line to have their way with them. In the second half, the defense was on the field for most of the game and it looked like they just got wore out. This caused some frustration on everyone’s part. Late in the game, DT Cleyon Laing let his emotions get the best of him when he hit a Tulsa player very late after the whistle was blown. The penalty was devastating because the defense had just stopped Tulsa on 3rd down and it was 4th and 6 and they would have had to attempt a long FG. Instead, the 15 yd personal foul penalty gave Tulsa a first down, which they converted into a TD. It was a stupid mistake and one that no senior should make. Our DL still has a lot of improvement to make.
I though that the LBs played OK at times. I thought that Klein played one of his best games as a Cyclones. Knowing it was his last game, he went out in style accumulating 19 tackles in the game. He was definitely the MVP on defense in this game. Jevon Miller played pretty solid and collected 12 tackles. The rest of the LBs seemed to struggle filling the hole. The loss of Jake Knott has really hurt us on defense and that was very evident in this game. Next year, we have to replace both Klein and Knott, two of the best LBs the Cyclones have ever had. This will be no easy task.
I thought that our DBs played pretty solid in pass coverage. Of course when Tulsa is running the ball like they were, they don’t need to pass much, which they did not. Reeves in his last game as a Cyclone made a great read, jumping an out route, and intercepted the ball and ran it back 31 yds for a TD. This was a big time play at an important time in the game. It was a huge momentum boost for the Cyclones. Washington played a very solid game as well collecting 9 tackles. Out secondary played strong, but we have a lot to replace next year and will have to continue to improve.
I thought that the special teams played very poorly overall. Arceo made a 33 yd FG early, but later in the game we botch a hold on a FG attempt and then got another chance on a penalty to kick it again and then we missed the FG. That can’t happen. VanDerKamp had one of his poorest games punting the ball all year.
Special Teams D-
I want to give Tulsa all the credit for a great game. They came ready to play and they deserved that win. It was a huge win for their program and capped off one of the best teams the school has ever seen. Iowa State really needs to concentrate on improvement this off-season. I definitely think that there was great improvement made this past season from the 2011 season, but we still have a long way to go.
I want to thank all the seniors. It is never easy to say goodbye, and this one is especially hard because of who you were and the fact that you were Coach Rhoad’s first class. Thanks for all the memories and please know that you were special and will never be forgotten.
To the underclassmen. You have a lot of work to do this off-season so buckle it up. You have some huge holes to fill and having an average record and getting to a bowl game is not enough to define success for this program anymore. It is time to set your sights higher and come through when the bell tolls. I am very excited about the future of this program and I can’t wait until kickoff next season against UNI. I think next season will be very special. Go Cyclones!