ISU defense prepping for Tulsa ground attack


Photo: Huiling Wu/Iowa State Daily

Defensive tackle Cleyon Laing and defensive end Cory Morrissey reach for Tulsa’s Trey Watts during the game Saturday, Sept. 1, at Jack Trice Stadium. 

Dylan Montz

Jeremiah George was steadfast in saying that he knows Tulsa quarterback Cody Green’s game better than Green knows the ISU linebacker’s skill set.

For the third time in 13 months, George will put his knowledge of Green as a quarterback to the test when Iowa State travels to Tulsa for a Thursday night matchup. George did admit, though, that Green was probably more concerned with what former ISU linebackers A.J. Klein and Jake Knott would bring to the ISU front-seven in the previous meetings.

Now, it’s George’s turn to be the focus of Green’s attention.

“He gets in between his blockers and he’s not looking to make somebody miss,” George said of Green’s running ability. “He’s looking to pick up the yards he needs for the first down. When he drops back and throws, he has a very strong arm and he has talented receivers.

“When he gets the ball, he gets it there in a hurry.”

Green, standing at 6 feet 4 inches and weighing 245 pounds and a former Nebraska quarterback, does have a level of familiarity with the Cyclones as well and is 2-1 as a starter against Iowa State including his time with the Cornhuskers.

A focal point for the young front-seven of the Cyclones’ defense will be the Golden Hurricane’s all-purpose running back Trey Watts. Iowa State’s defensive goal will be to stop the run and take advantage of a different-looking Tulsa offensive line than what was on the field last year in the matchup between the teams.

“What we’ve got to do better, we’ve got to continue to fit our gaps like we’ve improved from game one to game two,” said ISU coach Paul Rhoads. “We’ve got to have that same improvement going into game three and we’ve got to play with the speed and pursuit that I’m seeing us play with on the practice field right now.”

Last season in Iowa State’s 31-17 loss to Tulsa in the Liberty Bowl, Watts was named the AutoZone Liberty Bowl Player of the Game and Offensive MVP after tallying 249 all-purpose yards, of which 149 yards were rushing. Watts could also pose a threat in the passing game as he is just 87 yards shy of surpassing 1,000 career receiving yards.

With 2,406 rushing yards and 913 career receiving yards, the Cyclones have a number of challenges to stopping him because of his versatility.

“He’s going to return kicks, he’s going to catch the ball, he’s going to split out, he’s going to run the ball out of the backfield,” Rhoads said of Watts. “[Tulsa] forced Oklahoma to punt one time and the next thing you know, he’s about 70 or 80 yards down the field with a lot of great athletes trying to make a play on him.

“He’s a guy that our defensive players will always be aware of.”