BOWL GRIDIRON: Cyclones brace for rematch against Tulsa in Liberty Bowl


Photo: Huiling Wu/ Iowa State Daily

Coach Paul Rhoads and A.J. Klein talk on the sidelines Saturday, Oct. 6, at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas, en route to the Cyclones 37-23 victory against the TCU Horned Frogs. 

Jake Calhoun

Ever since Dec. 2, ISU coach Paul Rhoads and his staff have been raiding the filing cabinets for anything they could find on Tulsa.

The ISU football team beat Tulsa 38-23 on Sept. 1 to begin its season, but Rhoads said his staff will use the notes from that game along with new game plans to prepare for their rematch in the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31.

“You have all of your post-game notes from what was good, what was bad, that we have filed away because we’re playing them the third game of 2013,” Rhoads said. “Now you take the things they’ve adjusted from a full season’s worth of film, take the month of December and put a game plan together.”

Forty years from its 31-30 loss to Georgia Tech in the Liberty Bowl, Iowa State (6-6, 3-6 Big 12) will be returning this time to face Tulsa.

Playing the same team twice in one season is a rarity for Iowa State — the last time it did so was against Coe College in 1905. This creates a new challenge akin to last season when it prepared for the Pinstripe Bowl against Rutgers, which it had never faced before.

“[Playing Tulsa again is] a good thing, but it was the first game of the season we played them,” said senior linebacker A.J. Klein. “So we’re going to see a lot of new things.”

The team’s two previous appearances — a win at the 2009 Insight Bowl and a loss at the 2011 Pinstripe Bowl — have helped the coaching staff in preparation for this year’s trip to the Liberty Bowl.

“We’ve had plans in place for a number of different bowl game dates,” Rhoads said. “Playing on this date, playing on that date, how long we practice here… Now we’ve got this plan ready to execute.”

The Golden Hurricane (10-3, 7-1 C-USA) has already had a rematch this season, having beaten Central Florida once during the regular season and again in the C-USA Championship game.

Stopping Tulsa’s rushing attack, which is ranked 11th in the nation with 240.2 yards per game, will be a focal point for the ISU defense. On Sept. 1, Iowa State allowed 160 rushing yards — 125 from running back Trey Watts.

“It’s good to see an opponent that we’ve had success against,” Klein said. “But we know they’re talented, and it’s going to be a different team than what we played the first game of the season.”

When asked about the specifics of Tulsa’s defense, senior receiver Josh Lenz laughed and said he didn’t remember anything about it since the teams played each other three months ago.

One player the TU defense has not seen is quarterback Sam Richardson, who will likely get the start at quarterback for the Cyclones. Even though Rhoads said he had not made a decision on who will be starting at quarterback, he did say Richardson was taking reps with the No. 1 offense.

Losing last year’s Pinstripe Bowl to Rutgers made the team — especially the seniors — hungrier to come out on top.

“We definitely want to [end on a good note],” Lenz said. “This is our third bowl game we’ve gone to as seniors. Our first one was a great experience… We got a bad taste in our mouth after losing last year.

“We just want to end this thing on the upward slide. It’d be huge for us to get a win in this bowl game.”