John Klein: Tulsa stalls; playmakers need to step up
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Sunday, September 02, 2012
9/02/12 at 6:52 AM
Go to John Klein's Blog
For more information on TU's game against Iowa State, visit TU's SportsExtra page.
Original Print Headline: Tulsa can't sustain fast start vs. ISU
AMES, Iowa - Tulsa didn't have first-game jitters on the road at Iowa State.
The Golden Hurricane jumped out to a 16-7 lead and appeared comfortably in control.
But TU couldn't handle prosperity.
"All of the sudden we were spinning in the mud," said Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship.
Iowa State started pounding the Golden Hurricane with a punishing running attack, accurate short-passing game, and TU imploded on third down as the Cyclones ran away to a 38-23 victory over Tulsa on Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium.
It was a disappointing start for the Golden Hurricane, which came into the road game at a Big 12 stadium as a slight favorite.
Certainly, Tulsa appeared the better team early.
"I felt pretty good that we could break loose," said Blankenship.
Instead, Tulsa's offense went stale. New Tulsa quarterback Cody Green hit 10 of his first 13 passes and built a 16-7 lead for the Golden Hurricane.
However, Green cooled off and hit just four of his next 11 passes before halftime. Iowa State started to gain confidence and feed off the sellout crowd of 54,931 fans.
After that first quarter, Green hit just 13-of-36, was intercepted twice and sacked twice.
TU had six first downs in the first quarter and just 10 more the rest of the game. It gained 131 yards in the first quarter and just 227 the rest of the way - that includes 77 yards on a Trey Watts run in the fourth quarter.
To be honest, Watts' run, which got Tulsa to within 31-23, was Tulsa's only offensive highlight of the last 45 minutes of the game.
Tulsa simply could not convert third downs, and Green found himself under increasing pressure as the game wore on.
Green did not appear nervous, but the receivers were not sharp.
"I look at it as things that are correctable," said Blankenship.
The Golden Hurricane never appeared consistent enough, especially passing, to make a serious threat at the end of the loss.
"Early on we played extremely well," said Blankenship.
However, Tulsa's passing has to be better than 23-of-49 for 198 yards to win games against decent opponents.
Of course, offense was not the only problem.
Defensively, the Golden Hurricane was vulnerable in the middle and the Cyclones took full advantage. Iowa State ran for 160 yards, including 120 from Shontrelle Johnson.
With the lead in the second half, Iowa State simply ran it right at Tulsa, which had a difficult time slowing the Cyclones. Plus, Steele Jantz hit 32-of-45 for 281 yards and two touchdowns.
"After that first quarter we were having a tough time of getting off the field," said Blankenship.
As a result, Tulsa failed to get the image boost that would come from winning on the road in the Big 12.
Instead, the Golden Hurricane will now settle into a favorable schedule that should allow it time to fix what doomed it at Iowa State.
That would include finding a solution on third down short yardage, deep passing, run defense and finding players on both offense and defense to step up and make big plays.
That's what saved Iowa State. Johnson and Jantz made big plays for the Cyclones when they needed it.
"When playmakers make plays, that's the way it happens," said Blankenship.
When Tulsa needed an offensive spark, it had none. When Tulsa needed someone to make a big stop, it had no one.
Tulsa did make some plays. It just didn't make nearly enough of them to beat the Cyclones, who are picked to finish in the bottom three of the Big 12.
Instead, after the quick start, Tulsa's offense consisted of one huge run.
Now, if the Golden Hurricane can fix its flaws, and Blankenship believes it can and will, then Tulsa could still be a contender in Conference USA and go into a late-season gauntlet that starts at Arkansas with some momentum.
TU should be favored in its next seven games.
"That football team is going to win a lot of games this year," said Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads.
But, Tulsa is desperate to find some playmakers.
"We can win with Cody at quarterback," said Blankenship. "We've got to help him."
TU's (2) DeAundre Brown tackles Iowa State's (2) Steele Jantz at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa during the second half of the TU v Iowa State game. TOM GILBERT / Tulsa World