What went wrong? Opener at ISU was one that got away for TU
BY BILL HAISTEN World Sports Writer
Monday, December 31, 2012
12/31/12 at 9:04 AM
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Through one quarter of the University of Tulsa's season-opening game at Iowa State, the Golden Hurricane seemed destined for victory.
In his debut as the TU quarterback, Cody Green got off to a 10-of-13, 95-yard passing start. With a safety, a Ja'Terian Douglas touchdown run and a Thomas Roberson touchdown reception, the Hurricane owned a 16-7 lead.
But when the second quarter began with a Tulsa turnover, the momentum rolled from the Hurricane sideline to the Cyclone sideline.
TU never got it back.
After leading 16-7, Tulsa's next nine possessions netted only 132 total yards and ended with two turnovers and seven punts.
The 16-7 lead became a 31-16 deficit. Ultimately, the Cyclones prevailed 38-23.
What went wrong for Tulsa? What resulted in such a dramatic transition from feast to famine?
"We didn't execute at Iowa State and we had turnovers. That's tough to overcome," Hurricane tailback Trey Watts said. "We're a lot more polished now."
Said TU offensive coordinator Greg Peterson: "We were starting with a brand-new quarterback and some guys that hadn't played a lot of football. We're a different football team now, from an experience standpoint."
By "more polished" and "different," Watts and Peterson could mean "better."
Against Iowa State, Tulsa not only had a new QB but lost its best returning wide receiver (Bryan Burnham) to a third-quarter knee injury, played with two new starters at offensive tackle and had not yet settled on a linebacker rotation.
The Sept. 1 Hurricane bears only a slight resemblance to the Hurricane that, subsequent to the opening-day disappointment, won seven straight games, captured the Conference USA championship and built the 10-3 record Tulsa takes into Monday's AutoZone Liberty Bowl - an ESPN-televised rematch with Iowa State (6-6).
TU mustered only 358 total yards, including a 77-yard run by Watts, during the opener at Iowa State. And Green completed only 13-of-36 passes after the first quarter.
Yet despite having played so poorly during the second and third quarters, Tulsa trailed by only eight points and had possession of the football with two minutes left. But Green threw an interception that resulted in a late Cyclone TD.
"We were still in it. That's the amazing thing," TU coach Bill Blankenship said. "You've got to take care of the ball. Watch the bowl games. The people who take care of the ball usually are the ones who are successful."
At the 61,008-seat Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, 25,000 Iowa State fans are expected to attend. About 7,000 Tulsa fans are expected for the 2:30 p.m. game, and they would be wise to wear wet-weather gear. There is a 60 percent chance of rain.
The Cyclones and Hurricane are scheduled to meet again during the 2013 season (in a late September contest at TU's H.A. Chapman Stadium).
In September, Iowa State had an experience advantage at quarterback. Green's five previous starts were in 2010, followed by a redshirt year in 2011. The Cyclones' Steele Jantz was making the eighth start of his career.
Now, as Green is 9-3 as the TU starter and awaits the delivery of a C-USA championship ring, Iowa State has switched to a redshirt freshman QB, Sam B. Richardson.
"As the year went on," Green said, "we got more definition with our playmakers and we discovered that our running game is awesome."
Driven by Conference USA's best offensive line and the Watts-Douglas-Alex Singleton tailback trio, TU averages 240 rushing yards per game and 5.0 yards per attempt. During the previous 60 seasons, 11 Hurricane backs recorded a 1,000-yard rushing season. With 41 yards on Monday, Watts would reach the 1,000-yard mark.
On Sept. 1, Iowa State's stars were Jantz (32-of-45 passing for 281 yards and two TDs), running back Shontrelle Johnson (120 rushing yards) and All-Big 12 linebacker Jake Knott (11 tackles).
Jantz no longer is a starter. Johnson and Knott are injured and will not play in the Liberty Bowl.
The most compelling of all Liberty Bowl statistics is Tulsa's plus-39 standing on sacks. While the Hurricane offensive line surrendered only nine sacks in 13 games, the TU defense totaled a program-record 48. Senior end Jared St. John has 11 1/2 sacks. With one on Monday, the former walk-on from Edmond will break TU's single-season record.
In the opener, TU recorded four sacks against Iowa State. In 11 games since, the Cyclones gave up only 10 sacks. Whether TU can pressure Richardson - who makes only his second college start - is a huge Liberty Bowl storyline.
"(Tulsa's pressure) was effective against us in the opener, and it's obviously proven effective all year, with the success they've had," Cyclone coach Paul Rhoads said. "I think the matchup with our offensive tackles and their defensive ends will be one of the pivotal matchups of the game."
A look at TU's Sept. 1 loss at Iowa State:
Green starts strong, finishes poorly
TU quarterback Cody Green, playing for the first time since the 2010 season, completed 10-of-13 passes for 95 yards to start the game. After the first quarter, Green was 13-of-36. He threw a pair of second-half interceptions, including one that resulted in a late Cyclone TD.
The second quarter began with a Tulsa turnover, and the momentum rolled from the Hurricane sideline to the Cyclone sideline. After leading 16-7, Tulsa netted only 132 yards while committing two turnovers and punting seven times in nine possessions.
Tulsa not only had a new QB, but the Hurricane lost its best returning receiver (Bryan Burnham) to a third-quarter knee injury. TU had two new starters at offensive tackle and had not yet settled on a linebacker rotation.
"We're a different football team now, from an experience standpoint," TU offensive coordinator Greg Peterson said.
Liberty Bowl: Tulsa (10-3) vs. Iowa State (6-6)
2:30 p.m. Monday
Liberty Bowl, Memphis, Tenn.
Radio: KRMG am740, fm102.3
Original Print Headline: What went wrong?
Bill Haisten 918-581-8397
ISU's Durrell Givens eludes Thomas Roberson (26) and Bryan Burnham after an interception on Sept. 1. TOM GILBERT / Tulsa World
TU quarterback Cody Green takes in his team's loss to Iowa State on Sept. 1. TOM GILBERT / Tulsa World
Trey Watts heads toward the end zone against Iowa State on Sept. 1 at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa. TOM GILBERT / Tulsa World file