Cyclones Keep It On The Ground, Beat Tulsa 38-23
By Douglas Miles and Josh Christensen, Reporters
TULSA, Okla. – Running the ball on and stopping the run are two ingredients to any college football coach's winning formula.
In losses to in-state rivals UNI and Iowa, the Iowa State Cyclones did neither well. Last night in its road opener against Tulsa, they did both.
JUCO transfer tailback Aaron Wimberly rushed for 137 yards, while the Cyclone defense limited Tulsa to just 86 in return as Iowa State won a de facto rubber match, 38-21, before a crowd of 20,137 at H.A. Chapman Stadium in Tulsa.
"Good to get a victory," Iowa State Head Coach Paul Rhoads said. "Proud of the effort of our kids in preparation. We've had 44 practices and only played two games, that's a lot of beating up on yourself."
It was the third Tulsa tussle in the past 16 games for Iowa State (1-2), who opened last season with a 38-23 win over Tulsa in Ames, but lost the Liberty Bowl rematch 31-17.
Iowa State entered the game averaging 113.5 yards rushing, but received a boost from the 5-foot-9 speedster Wimberly, who set the tone early with 53 first-quarter rushing yards. Jeff Woody added three short touchdown runs for Iowa State (1-2).
"I just wanted to take care of the opportunity when I got in, and execute the plays that were called," Rhoads said of Wimberly.
The win salvages a game from the non-conference slate and snaps a four-game losing streak dating back to last season. Iowa State has won its last three road openers and opens Big 12 conference play next Thursday at Jack Trice Stadium against Texas (2-2).
Iowa State quarterback Sam Richardson showed little, if any, ill effects from his gimpy right ankle and subsequent sore groin, rushing twice in the first three plays from scrimmage. The sophomore threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns with one interception and was 8-of-18 on third-down conversions.
"It's definitely something we're getting comfortable with, throwing it around a little more," Richardson said.
Tulsa (1-2), in its final season as a member of Conference USA before it joins the Big East, scored two touchdowns with less than five minutes left in the first half to take a brief 14-7 lead.
Iowa State responded with a eight-play, 66-yard drive in 1:11 which began with a 24-yard run by Wimberly and ended with a 10-yard Richardson touchdown pass to tie the game at 14-14 with 15 ticks until halftime.
Tulsa tailback Watts, who rushed for 274 total yards in the two games against Iowa State last season, was held to 38 yards on 14 carries.
"He's a special player, everyone who covers Tulsa knows that," Rhoads said. "We were embarrassed by the number of rushing yards we gave up in the Liberty Bowl. Our guys did a very effective job of stopping that."
On Tulsa's second play from scrimmage to begin the second half, Tulsa quarterback Cody Green dropped back to pass and the ball slipped out of his hand before his arm was going forward, recovered by Cory Morrissey at the Tulsa 28. Four plays later, the Cyclones had a 21-14 lead on Richardson's second touchdown pass, a 16-yarder to tight end E.J. Bibbs. Bibbs, a JUCO transfer from Arizona Western, made his first start and caught four passes for 49 yards.
Woody's second touchdown, a 1-yard leap over the pile, put Iowa State up by two touchdowns with 3:16 left in the third quarter.
Iowa State center Tom Farniok did not start but played about two of every three series over the final three quarters after missing the Iowa loss with a right MCL strain.
"Tom had not had a full week of practice yet," Rhoads said.
The Iowa State defense forced five turnovers, including two fumble recoveries by defensive lineman Nick Kron and an interception by former Iowa City West prep Charlie Rogers. Rogers' interception with 3:44 remaining set up Woody's third short touchdown to provide Iowa State its 38-21 final margin.